Dear Friends,

Benjamin Franklin once said, “A good conscience is a continual Christmas”.  We experience the spirit of Christmas, in the words of peace, daily, weekly, monthly and throughout the year.   It is also demonstrating the right behaviours of daily loving God and others, joy, respect and goodwill to all.

Why limit our seasonal celebrations to Christmas only when they could be sustainable across the year with, for example, our loved ones, family, neighbours, community, schools and church?  The impact would be immeasurable – reaching beyond the boundaries of our villages if we are open to doing something new.  The journey begins with a greater self-awareness of personal faith, capability and integration like asking whether I am the same person on the inside as I am on the outside?  Is my outward focus inwardly driven – from the heart of loving God and others in the spirit of Christmas – or externally driven by circumstances – what others say of me?

This “continual Christmas” reminds us that we live out these behaviours daily to become the shop window of our faith in Jesus Christ.  Christmas thus becomes a portable life-giving attitude for taking anywhere on this practical road of life.   Mary Ellen Chase shared: “Christmas is not a date, it is a state of mind”, words which echo a frequent personal challenge to me of my faith expression and self-awareness.

The 2020 Global Peace Index, which ranks 163 independent states and territories according to their level of peacefulness, reported that global peacefulness has deteriorated since 2019, the fourth time of the last five years.  This is also the ninth deterioration of the last 12 years with 81 countries improving and 80 recording deteriorations.

The fall in peacefulness over the past decade was caused by a wide range of factors including: increased terrorist activity, the intensification of conflicts in the Middle East, rising regional tensions in Eastern Europe and Northeast Asia, and increasing numbers of refugees and heightened political tensions in Europe and the United States of America.

In December 2019, I shared in this Parish magazine that the new tensions within and between nations are still emerging and, sadly, shortly into 2020, we experienced the sad impact of the Covid-19 pandemic across our nation, locally and globally.  Together, they have compounded existing tensions and disrupted peacefulness.   We are meant to be coming out of Lockdown 2, November, into this month but only the outcome of the Government’s recent measures in response to the pandemic will determine whether we’re able to return to some normality thereafter.

Yet in the midst of these turbulent times, we are still called to be peacemakers.  We are.  Finding God’s peace in ourselves for peace of mind and sharing this peace with others by our actions (and use words if necessary).  According to the fifth chapter of Matthew’s Gospel, “God blesses those who work for peace, for they will be called the children of God.”  And this remains within our grasp – to become peacemakers in the Claydon villages / Calvert Green after finding peace in God and making a lasting impact.  We all need each other in order to brace ourselves against the turbulence and mental health challenges of Covid-19, which have touched the very heart of our families and communities.

On the 25th day of this month, December, we celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ.  This wonderful mystery of God’s dwelling among us in the fullness of humanity as Emmanuel, historically foretold by the Old Testament Prophets and born of Mary.   Also known as the Lord, the Messiah, the Saviour of the world, He is recognised as a baby lying in a manger and wrapped snuggly in strips of cloth.   He was the light for people who walked in darkness, a light that shined on all where death casts its shadow, and He is the light of the world.

Christmas is thus a timely reminder that we are not just celebrating the birth of Christ but the enduring outcome of His humanity in the last three years of His life, which reached the outer limits of earth over 2,000 years to date.  And the words of Jesus are still impacting the lives of many.  Permit me to leave with you the following poem entitled “Christmas Gift suggestions” by Oren Arnold for reflection throughout this month:

To your enemy, forgiveness.

To an opponent, tolerance.

To a friend, your heart.

To a customer, service.

To all, charity.

To every child, a good example.

To yourself, respect.

I do hope that you take the time to join us in one or more of our Christmas Services in our Parish churches celebrating the birth of Christ (see list of services elsewhere in this newsletter, all of which are subject to Lockdown 2 closure outcome and social distancing rules).  So, on behalf of our Parish, may I wish you and your families: peace, goodwill and love this Christmas season and a new year of blessings.

With love

Reverend Rickey Simpson-Gray

Parish of the Claydons