Monday, December 24, 2012

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas!

It's been quite a year. And as we enter the final week, with Christmas beginning as the year ends, I've been enjoying the various round robin letters.

I'm tempted to join in. But frankly - if you're that interested, you've already read about my trek up Kilimanjaro, my semi-final defeat in the county tennis championships, and my latest concert tour as you've perused the blog during the year. Plus, you've been challenged by the odd sermon and thrilled by the academic breakthroughs I'm making at work.

What's left to add?


If we add a soupcon of honesty and the bare minimum of humility, I might say that on the whole I end the year as I begin most years. Christmas is a time for gratitude. Simply saying 'thank you'.

I'm grateful for friends and family who have been there for me through some difficult days. A small op which carried a lot of pain. A big loss which still hurts. And I'm delighted to be a part of a lovely church family in Calverley - a real joy; they have blessed me beyond words, in all kinds of ways.

I'm grateful for all kinds of people I've been fortunate to meet this year and all kinds of places I've been able to visit - sometimes quite by chance, and sometimes through work. Skiing with friends, finally doing the Schilthorn, being with Florida family & friends, St Emilion, a gospel choir in New York, a glorious day in DC, and (again) skiing - but this time as part of a wedding. The places - the people - how grateful could I be?

I'm grateful for the way my faith has been challenged and has grown and developed. It's more and more part of who I am that my thirst for a greater biblical understanding has to lie within the framework of grace. I mean, I disagree more than ever with doctrine I read which excludes people (for all sorts of reasons) but I want to remain in conversation with the people with whom I disagree. Somewhere on this blog this year the best sentence I wrote said - I'd rather be righteous than right. Which means - I'd rather be in good standing with you than beat you in an argument. Somehow, I'm finding more of Jesus here. And - listening to others means that I find really good ideas I can pinch and call my own.

Finally, Christmas. Tonight we had the Calverley Carol Service. The fantastic scratch choir worked really hard and sang amazingly. They did a couple of my carols (Christmas Song, and Mary's Song) and now I get to relax. For the first time in a million years I didn't need to stay up for Midnight Communion.

So I'm staying up. Well, why not? I'd feel guilty about missing it!

And in the morning I'm speaking at the Christmas Day service here. On John 1. Can't remember doing a John 1 sermon before...

I took Mum to see Matt's grave yesterday. Strange, Christmas wasn't a big thing for him. Charlie, his predecessor, loved Christmas. Matt enjoyed it, but he'd rather we had chicken. Yet over these days, the house has been full of him. I've felt him, thought of him, been aware of him. And (though there's been a tear or two) actually now the memories are filled with gladness. I smile. I miss him enormously. And yet he is here. My heart.

John 1. The Word become flesh: all those words from all those letters, all those highlights of all those years, all those moments for which to be thankful - and in the midst of every single one of them, Jesus. God is here. Every day. Not just as the year comes to an end. Each of those letters shows me hope and fear and dreams and loss and God everywhere.

Yes. I'm staying up. Can't help myself. Can't bear to miss.

Merry Christmas.

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