Dear Friends,

Peter Marshall once cited: “May we not ‘spend’ Christmas or ‘observe’ Christmas, but rather ‘keep’ it.” Isn’t it so tempting to be caught up in the preparations of Christmas or observe Christmas that we miss the reason why we ‘keep’ Christmas?

We keep Christmas as a marker and reminder of peace and goodwill not just of the holiday season but in perpetual goodwill with, for example, our loved ones, family, neighbours, community, schools and church. After all, the most important two commandments in the Bible are summarised from the 12th chapter of Mark’s Gospel to: “Love God and Others!” The impact of this goodwill 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 Christmas from within the heart of God

This “continual Christmas” reminds us that we live out these behaviours daily to become the shop window of our faith in Jesus Christ. Christmas is the 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 2021 Global Peace Index of the Institute of Economics and Peace (IEP), which ranks 163 independent states and territories according to their level of peacefulness, reported that the average level of global peacefulness deteriorated by 0.07 per cent. This is the ninth deterioration in peacefulness in the last thirteen years, with eighty-seven countries improving, and seventy-three recording deteriorations; however, the change in score is the second smallest in the history of the index. What the above suggests is that there remains more work to do in promoting peace.

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, 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. However, we can be a part of the solution beginning in the Claydons, our Parish and neighbouring communities. We become peacemakers and share 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 to help each other in order to brace ourselves against the ongoing turbulence and mental health challenges of Covid-19, which have touched the heart of all 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 repeat last year’s poem below entitled “Christmas Gift suggestions” by Oren Arnold for reflection 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 in the centre pages). 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