Christmas is now just over a week away, either coming way too fast or agonisingly slow depending on your point of view (and probably your age!). We are finishing our ‘White Space Christmas’ series this week, thinking about how Christmas affects our relationships. We all know that this can be a difficult time for our families and community, as busyness and social obligations often bring us to a point where we are stressed and get into conflicts with each other that can ruin the whole season. The story of Jesus’ birth reminds us about God’s view of relationships, and his humble and caring approach to our world. We might find it hard to hear because the Christmas story is so well-known now, but what it actually tells us, is about a very quiet night, the birth of the Son of God in a small town, which was witnessed only by a poor family in Bethlehem and a couple of shepherds (and a multitude of angels!) These relationships are quiet, harmonious and humble, as Jesus took on human nature as a servant. We are reminded at Christmas of our own calling to be people who serve humbly and share the good news, bringing reconciliation and healing to the relationships around us.
Here at St. Mark’s we’re working through our ‘White Space Christmas’ series, and thinking about the kinds of issues that make it hard for us to include Jesus in our Christmas celebrations, or even have a balanced life at this time of year. While it’s interesting to think about Christmas and all the traditions and opportunities for festive fun that we have in December, the real point for us is to see how these issues ripple out to the rest of our lives outside of Christmas time. How much of our lives is filled with the busy activity and consumer culture that takes the space that could be given to God and enjoying life with him and with each other? Christmas just makes it more clear how much this is the case for us, and hopefully gives us a challenge to make changes as we go on into the New Year. This challenge will be one that we focus on at St. Mark’s in 2018 in our teaching and equipping.
This week and next week we will think more about the positive side of celebrating Christmas well, about how we might be authentically generous and inclusive of others, building positive relationships that will show the love of God in our lives.
Last week at St. Mark’s we began our series on ‘White Space Christmas’, thinking about the encouragement to ‘worship fully’, and to make honouring Jesus the centre of Christmas in the way that the Wise Men did. This means for us to grapple with what it means to ‘worship’. Worship is the practice of giving honour to someone or something. The Bible is an extended story of the struggle of God’s people to truly and faithfully worship God with all their hearts. We find it so easy to be distracted by lesser things and to create ‘idols’ of them. Worship is therefore a process of lifelong learning about how to put God at the centre of our lives. As we talked about, this means wrestling with how we spend our time and our attention. Christmas is a time when this struggle becomes even more clear to us as we become busier than ever. So as we come together to worship this week I encourage you to consider what you have to learn about the ‘art’ of worship, and whether there are people you can learn from about how to do this well. Also let’s encourage each other by sharing the things that we do to include honour and remembrance of Jesus into our everyday lives. Even a little bit more ‘white space’ will make Jesus stand out more for us and for those around us.
This week at St. Mark’s we are starting a new series, leading us into the Christmas season, called ‘White Space Christmas’. The point of this is for us to reflect, in a practical way, what it means to approach this season in a way that makes sense for those of us who are followers of Jesus. One of the sad realities is that Christmas-time has become and is becoming more each year a time when we are too busy, tired, and caught up with the cycle of spending and consumption that it becomes hard to remember the reason for all this celebration. This is why we call this ‘white space’ Christmas, as it is the white space on a page, where nothing is, that allows the important message to stand out. In the same way, how do we approach Christmas in a way that makes space for Jesus? Our series starts this week looking at the idea of ‘worship’ and how to put Jesus at the centre of our lives, and to offer him our gifts that way that the Wise Men did. In later weeks we will consider how to spend less on things that are unnecessary, how to give in a more creative way, and how to show love and welcome to others as God has done to us. I’m looking forward to this journey together as a congregation, and the opportunity to encourage each other to arrive at Christmas Day with a sense of clarity and anticipation to celebrate the coming of the Son of God into the world.
Our series is based on the material developed by the ‘Advent Conspiracy’ group in the United States. To see what they do and to access more resources on this topic go to www.adventconspiracy.org.
‘Where has the time gone?’
‘Blink and you’ll miss it’.
‘They grow up so fast’.
Most of us experience time as something that flows by unexpectedly quickly. Our final reading from Ecclesiastes this week at St. Mark’s asks us to think about our entire lives, what stage we are at, the challenges and opportunities that we face when we are young and when we are old. We realise how short life is—time enough to learn and experience a few things, and then to hand over our lives to God again. In this time, then, Ecclesiastes says, we need to ‘remember our Creator’ and think about the meaning of things. Jesus teaches us that our response to the shortness of life should not be to rush around faster and faster to do everything, but to look for the coming of God’s Kingdom that will bring permanence and eternity into our world. This is a helpful reminder as we approach the ‘silly season’ with all its distractions and cares.