St Helens Methodist Church
Ministers Letter – December 2020
‘Emmanuel – God is with Us’
I have heard and seen that people are putting up their tree and Christmas decorations earlier this year to bring a bit of cheer to their lives. This is hardly surprising as it has been a difficult year for many. We are all feeling a bit uncertain about what Christmas will be like this year. It’s also fair to say that this year as much as ever it is critical that we reach out to people who aren’t part of our churches.
When the birth of Jesus was announced to Joseph in a dream he was told that he was to name the child ‘Emmanuel’ which means ‘God is with us.’ This is good news indeed and puts away for ever the picture we have of God as some distant power, dispensing judgement on disobedient people. It challenges our ideas of God as detached and unmoved by what happens in our world.
Advent is the announcement of the coming one who will feel and share all that happens in our common experience of being human. His birth will be lowly, identifying him with the weak and the poor. He will ‘have no place to lay his head’ so the homeless, the refugee and the asylum seeker will find comfort in that. He will be ‘despised and shunned by all …. a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief’ so he can empathise with the isolated, the sad and bereaved in their pain.
He will endure suffering of mind, soul and body so those who are mentally distressed, emotionally wounded or desperately ill will be strengthened by his ability to feel for them and to understand all that they are going through. The dying, of whatever age, will know that he is with them sharing their journey from death to life. He is indeed Emmanuel – God with us – sharing all of our experiences of life be they sorrowful or full of joy.
The Christmas message of Emmanuel – that God is with us – is even more relevant than ever in this extraordinary year.
The Methodist Church Christmas campaign for 2020 ‘God Is With Us’ seeks to share this good news through twenty-four stories of individuals and their experiences of this extraordinary year. The campaign is not about getting people to come to church at Christmas or watching online services. Nor is it about raising money for our churches. It is simply about raising hope with the Christmas message that ‘God Is With Us’ to be shared using social media and postcards that can be sent to others with words of encouragement.
The campaign name ties in with the Presidential theme for the year which comes from John Wesley’s purported words on his death bed: ‘the best of all is, God is with us’ which reminds us that even in the times which feel most uncertain, we can be certain of God.
During the campaign we will hear stories of people who have felt the painful effects of isolation this year, who have experienced extreme poverty, who have struggled with poor mental health, who have lost loved ones – like so many millions of others. But ultimately, incredibly, God’s loving presence radiates from each of them in beams of powerful hope. Hope that is so necessary for such a time as this.
This indeed is ‘Good news of great joy for all people.’
What would be your story of knowing ‘God is with us’ in this past year? As we prepare for and celebrate Jesus’ birth why not take time to reflect on your story of knowing God’s loving presence, give thanks to God and then share it to encourage others.