The Presidential Christmas message
17 December 2015
- You can listen to the Christmas message as a podcast here
The President and Vice-President of the Methodist Conference
have reminded people of the importance of 'welcome' in this year's
Presidential Christmas message.
The Revd Steven Wild and Dr Jill Barber highlight the central
significance of Emmanuel, 'God-with-us', and how we can encounter
God through welcoming others.
Click here to
listen to the messages in full, or see below for the full text.
The President's message:
Mary and Joseph were not rich people; Jesus was born in a
stable. It was a busy time when the census was being taken and this
young couple had little resources. I wonder if people saw them as
someone I had a conversation with on the train recently did? They
described the refugees at Calais as an 'inconvenience'. The kind
innkeeper didn't treat this young couple as an inconvenience as
others in Bethlehem did, but helped them in their time of need.
Emmanuel, 'God-with-us', is not selective to one particular
class or type of person. No one is inconvenient to the God who is
with us, His great grace reaches to all people whoever they
Jill Barber and I have both been blessed on our overseas
journeys by being shown hospitality and care by some very poor
people; the depth of care and love has made a profound impression
This year one of our themes is Mission and Heritage. We cannot
forget how many of the early Methodists were poor people: little in
the bank but rich in faith. John Wesley wrote about social holiness
- about being practical in your faith. As shown in the letter from
James in the epistles, "faith without deeds is useless" (James
2:20). As early as 1740, not long after his own life-changing
experience, John Wesley set out to make collections for the poor,
he helped the unemployed, started a lending society, hospital
visitations, a people's dispensary. He did all he could to feed and
clothe the poor with organisations that seem quaint to us - 'The
Female Childbed Linen Society' and 'The Strangers Friend Society'.
This has always been part of our Methodist DNA.
The message of Emmanuel, 'God-with-us', is a message people need
to hear. I sometimes think that the way my children behaved on
Christmas morning is a parable of many people's attitude in society
today. They would open lovely presents and then leave the present
and start to play with the empty box or the wrapping paper! Many
folk today are like that they miss out on the main point of
Christmas - Jesus, Emmanuel, 'God-with-us' - and instead get taken
up with the wrappings, the busyness, spending and overeating.
At Christmas there are great opportunities for local evangelism.
It's such a good time to invite people to worship with you. When I
was in Knutsford recently a lady came to faith who had got into
conversation with one of the church ladies at the coffee morning.
She'd said that she'd like to come to church and the Methodist lady
arranged to pick her up in the car and sit with her in the service.
Not all of us have a car but we can all invite someone and sit with
them, a way of your church helping to bring someone to faith.
There is an energy in 'Emmanuel'. It is the ever-present God to
whom none of us are an inconvenience but are loved and
The Vice-President's message:
As we've travelled around the Connexion and visited churches and
communities in these islands and around the world, we have been
welcomed, we have been fed, we have shared stories and we have
encountered God in expected and unexpected ways. In the coming days
as we once again celebrate the coming of the Christ-child, let us
see beyond the wrappings and the tinsel - that can so easily
disguise the true meaning and numb our senses - to encounter the
one who is Emmanuel, 'God-with-us'.
In that first coming: there were journeys across country and
across countries; there was the fearful experience of no welcome,
no room; there was the dependence upon the ingenuity and sheer
dogged determination of parents-to-be; there was the terrifying
escape from tyrants and violence; there was the horror of news of
those who didn't or couldn't escape; and there were days on the
road heading into another land. This is the experience of our God
coming among us and this is the experience of millions of people
around the world today, tomorrow and in the coming days.
We have received welcome. Can we now be that prophetic people
who seek to offer welcome, to challenge injustice and take steps,
however small, to work for justice and peace in our communities and
in our world? Part of that will be through generous giving to such
things as All We Can: Methodist relief and development, and
part of it will be opening hearts and lives to the stranger.
The Enough campaign, launched by the Methodist Church
with our partner Churches, calls on the government to ensure that
the welfare state holds to its founding principles, and seeks to
provide enough for a basic standard of living, so that every family
and every child can survive and thrive. It will also involve being
that prophetic voice, which can be so unpopular, that speaks out
and gives voice to those who either have no voice or whose voice is
As we reminded the Methodist Conference in our addresses we are
called to find our voice and be a people of prayer, prophecy,
protest and passion so that the Word may become flesh and dwell
among us full of grace and truth.