Reverend Denise Harding would like to wish all members and friends of Frodsham Methodist Church a joyful Christmas, and God's blessings for 2013.
Many thanks for your welcome and friendship in these first few months, both to myself and to my mum Janet too. I am looking forward to celebrating Christmas and to welcoming in a New Year in a lovely part of God's Kingdom with you all.
Mr. Graham Evans, M.P. for Weaver Vale, commented on the wide variety of local talents and creative skills when he opened an Art Exhibition at Frodsham Methodist Church on November 30th 2012. Over 200 entries were exhibited at the event, which was titled “Creative Winter”. The exhibition was curated by Liz and Alun Evans and included paintings, photographs and stitchcraft, quilting and patchwork. Sixty children from Overton CE Primary School sang four cheerful Christmas songs at the opening ceremony.
Proceeds from the Exhibition will be shared between the church and the Amity Foundation (www.amityfoundation.org/eng), which is the Church charity for 2013.
Mr. Graham Evans will make the Church website his “Website of the Week”.
Church Council Secretary
The exploits of the 4th Century Bishop of Myra, the city in modern day Turkey, S. Nicholas—who had a reputation for secret gift-giving, for helping the poor and for kindness to children—have given rise to the legend of the British Father Christmas and the North American Santa Claus.
Such stories are not historically true in the sense that we understand historical. How then, are they useful? The answer lies in their power to illustrate the truth of the good news of Jesus Christ. As aspects of the Church’s tradition, they bear witness to God’s love.
There is, of course, biblical precedent for such use of legend: the book of Jonah is an obvious example of a legend which illustrates truth. When we speak of the trustworthiness and truth of Holy Scripture, we speak not just of historical verifiability, but of divinely inspired witness to the truth of God in Jesus Christ.
In the same spirit, we can accept the stories of Father Christmas as witness to the truth of God, regardless of the historical verifiability of the legends which surround them.
This raises a thorny question for us: does our tradition of Father Christmas illustrate the gospel or obscure it?
When Father Christmas becomes the focus of our Christmas celebrations instead of Jesus Christ, it surely obscures it. In particular, the idea that Father Christmas only gives presents to good children entirely perverts the good news that God is generous to all who believe in his Son, regardless of good works. In the well-known Christmas song we learn that:
He's making a list,
And checking it twice;
He’s gonna find out
Who's naughty and nice.
Santa Claus is coming to town.
To place this idea of justification by good works at the centre of Christmas is nothing short of a scandal. Jesus Christ is given to all.
God does not only save those who are holy already, in fact far from it. For what would be the point of forgiving a saint?! In our Holy Communion service in the Methodist Worship Book we are told that ‘the Lamb of God takes away the sins of the world’ not that ‘the Lamb of God takes away the sins which were taken away before or do not exist’.
Father Christmas is here to stay, but a Christian need not necessarily see any conflict between Father Christmas and Jesus Christ. We can be stirred by the legends and stories of Father Christmas, give gifts and enjoy this time of hospitality, welcome and friendship, to pass on the good news about Jesus Christ to others: not just a hollow greeting, but the message of salvation by God’s grace through faith in the incarnate Son of God, Jesus Christ our Saviour.
Another two months have passed by, and we are closer to Christmas than ever… only 4 weeks to go now to 25th December. In the midst of the busyness of the month of December, perhaps it would be good for all of us to take time during the season of Advent (which somehow seems to lose its effect with preparation in the shops beginning in September!) to prepare ourselves for the arrival of someone special in our lives.
Jesus came into the world as a baby – completely dependent upon the care of his human parents Mary and Joseph. He needed to be nurtured and loved and fed and changed. He also needed preparing for – in the case of Mary and Joseph it meant a long journey from Galilee in Nazareth to Bethlehem, with the hope of finding somewhere to stay when they arrived and trusting that the pregnancy would go to plan and the baby Jesus would arrive safely.
When a couple are looking forward to the arrival of a child into their family, all sorts of things are done to prepare beforehand. Clothes might be bought, and nappies, and various furniture like a cot and changing table, a pram, etc. And then there is preparing the physical space the baby will inhabit – choosing the colour for the walls in the nursery room, clearing it of all the rubbish dumped there over a long period of time (that usually can’t be found a home elsewhere in the house), and decorating it with lovely things ready for it to become home to a precious infant. We need to make a similar space in our full and chaotic and unprepared lives for the arrival of a special gift this Christmas.
We already decorate the space (with bright and cheerful decorations around our home), and buy gifts recognising love for each other, and tidy up our homes ready for the arrival of special guests. So we are already used to preparing for the arrival of something significant in our lives at Christmas…perhaps this Christmas we can also take time together and individually to make space in our hearts and lives for the most precious gift we can receive – a new life emerging alongside us and within us. We have all the rest prepared already – what we need to recognise is the knowledge of Jesus being here with us and within us personally.
Finally, perhaps some of you can share more physically in the Nativity story – if you would like to be a part of receiving and passing on the travelling Nativity scene that goes from home to home this Advent, please do talk to our Family Worker Andrea Ellams at church, or send her a message through the Church website. How lovely to know that we are part of the journey together of welcoming Jesus into our midst this Christmas season.
Sending each of you love and best wishes during this wonderful Christmas season, and for the beginning of a New Year in 2013.
Reverend Denise Harding
Children performing at a church on Christmas Eve 2011
The Amity Foundation is an independent Chinese voluntary organisation that was created in 1985 by Chinese Christians. Their aim was to promote education, social services, health and rural development in some of the poorest areas of China.
The Foundation’s Chinese name has two characters. The first character means “love” and is a reference to the verse in I Corinthians 13:13 “Meanwhile these three remain: faith, hope and love; and the greatest of these is love”. The second character helps form the words for “morality” and “ethics”. The Foundation continues to form a bridge between the Christian Church and society in China.
The Methodist Church work with Amity and among other projects are currently supporting preachers who are poorly paid and cover huge geographical areas to meet their congregations. They are working to supply electric scooters to enable preachers to make pastoral visits and attend preaching appointments.
“Churches Together in Britain and Ireland” work with Amity, particularly on English teaching programmes for universities in the developing provinces. Other current Amity projects include:
· Church-run hospitals and clinics
· Facilities for the elderly
· HIV/AIDS prevention projects
· Sanitation and clean water projects
In the poorest parts of China people who have no income are forced to sell their blood to survive. This has resulted in widespread HIV/Aids infections, where whole villages are ravaged by the disease. Amity has 34 village programmes, which include setting up household groups for mutual support, information sharing and the services of health professionals.
Thanks to Matthew for suggesting this charity. We look forward to learning more about the Amity Foundation in the coming year.
Church Council Secretary
The Amity Foundation
At Christmastime we reconnect with people that perhaps we don’t see very much. The first Christmas was about God connecting with people here on earth in a way that hadn't been done before. Jesus, God’s son, came to help us understand God in a new way. Jesus shows us a new way to live and that God loves us so much he wants to be our friend always.
Three ways to share God’s love this Christmas:
1. Share with others.
2. Surprise someone by being helpful.
3. Be cheerful.
Young Family Worker
Blog posts written by the Minister and Members of Frodsham Methodist Church.