A Word from the Manse
The people walking in darkness have seen a great light. Of those living in the land of deep darkness, a light has dawned.
Christmas is almost here and that is good news for everyone except the turkey, goose, or nut roast. We will soon be full of joy, mince pies, and chocolate... singing carols in schools... We will listen to our Christmas tunes on the radio, on Spotify, in the pubs and supermarkets, and of course in our Churches too.
But Christmas is also being celebrated in a febrile atmosphere of anxiety, new variant COVID viruses, worldwide shutdowns and travel restrictions, climate change and economic uncertainty.
What then can the Church say to people of faith and those of none?
What should our Christmas message be?
Over the last year or so you will have noticed that I have chosen to write in these letters about hope on quite a few occasions. At the moment our hope will feel to many like an uncertain or fragile thing. Hospitalisations are reducing but infection rates are still very high. Our economy is growing, and unemployment is low, but many people feel insecure in their jobs. There are supply issues, and Europe appears to be heading into the grip of a fourth wave of COVID. We all want and need a good Christmas, but what are we to do with this moment of hope when we can’t know and don’t understand how the future might look?
Let’s consider the very first Christmas... It teaches us a profound truth.
Mary held in her arms her newborn baby. For those of you who are parents or grandparents, aunts or uncles - You always remember holding a much-loved baby for the first time. A tiny and fragile little boy or girl. You didn't know what the future would be like for him or her, but in that moment with the baby in your arms, I bet you felt wonder and love and hope. That special moment was enough. It was life sustaining.
I can’t help but imagine that it must have been the same for Mary. In her arms she held the prince of peace, Emmanuel God with us, the almighty creator God, the hope of salvation for the entire world. She didn’t fully understand and nor could imagine what the future would be for him. So what did she do? Mary nursed her little boy, she kept him warm and cared for him. She did what was natural in that moment. She loved him and treasured the moment.
Of course, Mary wasn’t the only one who struggled to find a response fitting to that moment. Others also did what to them came naturally. The shepherds and kings all came with presents, lambs, gold, frankincense, and myrrh. Strange gifts for a baby, but it was the natural response for each of them. Even the angels didn’t really know what was to come but, they knew how to respond. They sang with great joy, announcing the good news... That God’s great plan to show his love to the world had begun.
This Christmas, we should do what is natural in this unique moment. We should be generous like the shepherds and three kings, giving whatever we can to enable everyone to share in the joy. Like the angels, we should be filled with great joy and sing and celebrate. Perhaps most importantly, we should be like Mary. She cared for her little boy, knowing he was fragile. She loved him.
This Christmas with the example of Mary to guide us, we should remember all the times we have been caused to be apart from families and friends... and we should treasure this Christmas as a time shared together. Just love those who matter most to you. Cherish time together, be kind and forgiving then - I suspect - you will find the light that shines in darkness.
I wish you all a very happy Christmas and a truly joyful New Year.
If I decorate my house perfectly with strands of twinkly lights and shiny balls, but do not show love to my neighbour, I am just a decorator. If I slave away in the kitchen baking cakes and arranging food on a beautifully adorned table, but do not share the true meaning of Christmas, I am just another cook. If I volunteer at a soup kitchen, sing carols in hospital, and donate to charity but do not demonstrate simple kindness to strangers, it profits me nothing. If I attend Christmas lunches, with party hats and crackers yet fail to be awestruck by the Christ who gave everything to come as a vulnerable child, I have missed the point.
Love stops cooking to hug a child and to be still in the presence of ‘God with us’. Love sets aside decorating to kiss a loved one. Love is kind during Christmas, even though sometimes tired. Love does not envy another’s home that has perfectly strung outdoor lights or a flawless tree. Love does not ask family to get out the way, but is thankful they are in the way. Love doesn’t give only to those who are able to give in return or those on our lists, but rejoices in giving to those who can’t and those who aren’t.
Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, and endures all things. Love never fails.
...Even at Christmas.
- Contributed by a church member
In the Orthodox and Catholic/Anglican tradition the feast of St Nicholas is 6 December.
Although Nicholas is a very popular saint in the Greek and Latin churches (i.e., Orthodox and Western), there is little known about the historical Nicholas. We know he was Bishop of Myra (Lycia in modern Turkey) at the beginning of the fourth century. Beyond that, our knowledge of Nicholas moves into legend.
It is said that he was imprisoned during the Diocletian persecution of the church in AD 303-304.
He may have participated in the first Council of Nicaea in AD 325, one of the crucial Ecumenical Councils of the Church that helped forge Christian orthodoxy (from which we have the Nicene Creed).
Nicholas is remembered for his generosity and goodwill. For this, he is considered a patron saint of sailors and children.
The truth of these legends is lost in the mists of time, so how might they be important to us today?
First is the priority of care for those who are denied justice. In Nicholas’ day, children had no legal or other form of status. That was a given in the Roman Empire. Unless affluent, they were profoundly vulnerable. That is still true across the globe today. This is totally contrary to the teachings of Jesus, who points to the child as an exemplar of the Kingdom of God and in special need of care and protection.
In saving the unjustly convicted sailors Nicholas shows that due process is integral to justice. In the days of Twitter storms and social media condemnation we are losing the art of measured judgement and are rushing to condemn. Nicholas warns us away from that nasty basic impulse to point the finger. He does that surely in the spirit of Jesus’ hesitancy to judge, despite being the Judge of All. Secondly in Nicholas we see someone who delights in the Gift of Life and wants to see life in others. How we live our lives – from conception to a natural death – is increasingly contested, even amongst Christians. Nicholas brought his gifts by night so as not to be noticed. We don’t see, and barely acknowledge, the Giver of our lives. In dark times when so many refugees die and suffer, when we have homeless people living on the street, when many have little food and poor shelter, part of the Christian task, in the spirit of Nicholas, is quietly and patiently, yet insistently, to promote the priority of life.
St Nicholas was no ‘bah-humbug’ sort of person, and nor should we be, so following his example, let us pray that we might be humble in generosity, vibrant in our daily lives and always compassionate to the needs of the vulnerable. Then we can truly say we honour this great and popular saint.
This year our congregation has selected two charitable organizations to support through this year's Advent Appeal giving campaign. Donate your spare change each Sunday... Your kindness will make a difference and will bring hope to those who are forgotten.
Donations to these charitable programs can be given through collection boxes in the rear of the sanctuary. Cheques can be sent to the church office. ---Thanks for your help!
Update: The Main Hall
We are so pleased to be able to report that the floor in the Main Hall has been finished.
It looks wonderful!
We’re sure that everyone will enjoy being back, and would like to thank everyone for their patience.
Interested in hiring the Main Hall or any of our other facilities?
Flowers for 2022
Thank you to everyone who has helped with putting flowers in the church since it has opened. They really do brighten everyone’s spirits.
I intend restarting the Flower Rota from January 2022 and would be delighted for anyone to give me her/his/their name to fill a Sunday slot or two. May I remind you do not have to be an expert flower arranger: a bunch of flowers from a supermarket, a small posy in a vase, a pot plant or a full arrangement as you wish - all are enjoyed, and variety is nice. Some people wish to do flowers for a special occasion or anniversary, others just when it suits. Men are as welcome and able as ladies to do this, and we welcome families and children doing flowers together. Please just have a go, you may surprise yourself and enjoy it. Your help would be much appreciated.
If you wish to put flowers in the church but cannot do so yourself, please ask someone else if he/she could do them for you. If you wish to give money to a flower fund, please give it to me or Lesley Donald.
0131 261 4908
There's More to Christmas...
There’s more, much more to Christmas
Than candlelight and cheer;
It’s the spirit of sweet friendship
That brightens all the year;
It’s thoughtfulness and kindness,
It’s hope reborn again,
For peace, for understanding,
For goodwill to men!
- Calvin Coolidge -
30th President of the United States
A Prayer for December
By being born one of us, and lying humbly in a manger,
you show how much God loves the world.
Let the light of your love always shine in our hearts,
until we reach our home in heaven,
and see you on your throne of glory.
The Link is a monthly publication by members and staff of Morningside United Church.