We also had time to remember the appalling suffering in Syria today, to pray for people there and to give in support of Tearfund’s work.
Great political, economic and social forces are at work in the world. Humanity suffers violence, pestilence and poverty. The Economist summarises the year’s news here.
Ukraine, Crimea and Russia’s role, Islamic State’s barbarism, loss of innocent life in the conflict between Israel and Palestine, Ebola, central bank stimulus around the world, populist political parties on the rise, the murder of children in Peshawar: these were some of the low points in a difficult year.
The central message of Christmas remains as necessary as ever:
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.
On the first Sunday of December, I led our Church’s teaching by expanding traditional readings to provide Christmas in the drama of God’s plan (PDF). Together, we shared in reading John 1, Isaiah 9, Isaiah 7, Micah 5, Luke 1, Matthew 1, Luke 2, Hebrews 1, Jeremiah 23, Revelation 19 and Revelation 21, interspersed with five pieces of music.
Consider for example the verses around the well-known Isaiah 9:6:
The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned.
You have enlarged the nation and increased their joy; they rejoice before you as people rejoice at the harvest, as men rejoice when dividing the plunder.
For as in the day of Midian’s defeat, you have shattered the yoke that burdens them, the bar across their shoulders, the rod of their oppressor.
Every warrior’s boot used in battle and every garment rolled in blood will be destined for burning, will be fuel for the fire.
For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end.
He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever.
The zeal of the Lord Almighty will accomplish this.
Please download the PDF for more about Christmas in the drama of God’s great plan to set the world right and please feel free to join us for Christmas at Speen Church (or you can find your nearest church through findachurch.co.uk).
Later today, I will be joining a vigil for the murdered children of Peshawar before taking two weeks off. I wish you a Merry Christmas and a peaceful and prosperous new year.