|Minister's Letter - December 2018|
As we move into a new church year, our weekly Gospel readings will be from Luke’s Gospel. Each Gospel challenges the Christian community in ways that were appropriate when they were written. Luke’s Gospel has more stories about women, gentiles and people excluded from the community for other reasons than any other Gospel. There isn’t complete agreement on why. Some commentators say it was because the Gospel was written for a gentile community. While others argue it was a rich, relatively complacent community, the Gospel writer wanted to remind them about the cost of following Jesus. But it may not matter too much which it is, as long as it prompts us to explore what our Christian discipleship looks like now.
During Advent, we will hear of how for Mary, Elizabeth and Zechariah, the birth of John the Baptist and Jesus were connected to the promise of the Messiah, who would bring down the powerful from their thrones and lift up the lowly.
On Christmas Day, when Christ is born, our attention is drawn to people on the edge. First, there is no place in the inn, and his birth is proclaimed to, and by, despised shepherds.
When the time comes for Mary’s purification, and Mary and Joseph take sacrifices to the temple, we meet two old people: Simeon and Anna. In Luke’s Gospel their stories bookend the narrative of the incarnation which begins with Zechariah and Elizabeth who are also getting on in years.
I’m struck by the arc of this story, with older people at both ends. John and Jesus, both babies, in the middle and, in between, Mary and the shepherds – people of working age – who were also people on the edge of the community. And I wonder what it might say to us?
This challenges me to look to the edges of our Church.
One of the things I’ve heard since I’ve been your Minister is that “there are no children in this church”. I hear it as a desire to share the Gospel with children. However, it is not true! There are children involved in the life of Chandler’s Ford Methodist Church. It’s just that most of them are not with us – for all sorts of good reasons – on Sunday. They’re being introduced to the Gospel and being discipled in other groups and events. They need to be celebrated and supported.
One of the things I’ve heard virtually nothing about is the amazing ministry the Church has among older people. It is way beyond anything I’ve ever experienced before! There are meetings, events and activities happening most days, and these are supported by a significant number of members. People are being drawn into the life of the Church from its edges.
For me this is Gospel activity, and I’d love us to celebrate it all. It may not be what you expect to see, but one of the challenges Luke’s Gospel presents is that Jesus wasn’t as they expected either! So I invite you, during the coming Advent, Christmas and Epiphany seasons, to wonder how the readings we hear each Sunday are being embodied in the life of Chandler’s Ford Methodist Church – as well as the world in which we live. Listen for the invitation to join in – through prayer, supporting work among children and young people (they need helpers), and in other ways. If you think you’re too old, look at Anna!
With good wishes for a peaceful Advent, happy Christmas, and a revealing Epiphany, Sue