Dear Family of St John’s

As I write this letter to you, there are 4 sleeps until it’s Christmas Day. If you have young children with you over Christmas, I’m sure the anticipation is building for Christmas Day. Some of us older children are also feeling that building excitement!

We’ve marked our journey through Advent with many activities. From our teachings at our Sunday services where we’ve spoken about the prophecies of the coming King – from the Old Testament all the way through to John the Baptist.

We’ve also marked the time of Advent in the different services we’ve held – our Nativity Play, the Blue Christmas Service, the Service of Nine Lessons and Carols.

You, as members of St John’s have made it possible for us to bless 167 children with school shoes and stationery in 2024. Thank you so much for your generosity.  Your gifts will give these children confidence and a sense of dignity as they start their school year.

Our teenagers have helped to decorate and package Christmas Cookies, some of which have already been distributed to those who are housebound.  Others will be given to those attending our Christmas services (no, that’s not a bribe!)

By this stage most of us have bought gifts (or are hopefully almost there), decided on what we’re cooking for Christmas Day, and we’re almost ready.

But, are we? Well, I think the answer to that depends a little on where our focus is with our celebrations.

When you celebrate Christmas, do you focus on the baby in Bethlehem, or do you focus on the Second Coming of our King?  Is your attention only on the nativity? With the oxen and the donkey, the shepherds and angels, a big bright star and Mary and Joseph? On the wise men making their way from the east?

Or, is your focus on the celebration that our King came to earth for us, because of God’s great love for His creation? Is it on this magnificent plan to save humanity, that started in such a humble way, and will end with a triumphant coming again of our King, this time in all His glory?

We should be celebrating both, they are tied together of course.  But, some people tend to look only at the baby, and neglect what is expected of us from our King.  They focus on the little babe in the manger and don’t see how He’s ‘all grown up’.  They don’t realise that He will be coming back in a very different way to that in which He first came.  And, when He comes, we need to be ready and waiting to welcome Him.

I’ve been thinking a fair bit about my Christmas table décor recently.  And, perhaps this is a bit of a stretch, but I think that I’ve identified the source of my affinity towards the rich, jewel colours that I love so much at this time of year. I want my tree, and my table to look ‘regal’, if you like.

Because, when I decorate my tree, when I lay my table, when I prepare the food I’ll serve for Christmas Day – it’s never just about a party for me.  It’s about my King, Jesus.  Its about making my physical space look beautiful to welcome Him.

Even when the children are opening presents and there’s chaos, my heart is looking towards the gift that He is to me, to us, and waiting in anticipation for Him to come again. Even when everyone is sitting at the table eating, and laughing, and enjoying each other’s company, my heart is also yearning for that great final banquet.

Christmas, for me, is about remembering and giving thanks for the baby, and it’s about the eager awaiting of our coming King.  Christmas is a reminder that we need to be ready.

I pray that your celebrations this Christmas will also focus on our King, that there will be room for Him at your table and in your celebrations.

May you and your family know the peace and the joy that only He can bring, wherever you may be.

With love

Your friend and rector