17 December 2004

Christmas message from Methodist Leader

The President of the British Methodist Conference, The Rev Wil Morrey, has the following message for Christmas 2004:

(Hear the message)

"When I was a student in Birmingham a Methodist minister and chaplain spoke of how the local congregation had been invited that year to see a baby, baptised the Sunday before Christmas, as the Christ child for them. In conversation he explained how each year he had found it helpful to focus the celebration of Immanuel, God with us, in a child.

Such a practice invites us to follow each year God's path of incarnation as we are invited to explore afresh how the story of Jesus' birth is about God's commitment to human life. Like the wise men in the story of Jesus' birth, we can be surprised by where we are led.

That conversation came to my mind in August this year when I visited a remote village in the arid east of Kenya. As I arrived a community meeting was organising the distribution of food aid. They took me to the chapel, where a group of children and young people sang to welcome me. After their songs I watched the young woman who had led the group sit down. A child passed an infant to her, and as she suckled the little one at her breast I knew they were the mother and Christ child for me this year.

Later, I was escorted to a grave near the chapel where lay three generations brutally slain in intertribal conflict three years ago. In a place where life hangs by a thread I looked at the young mother and child and therein saw again the powerful affirmations of hope, joy, and the vibrancy of life. As I celebrate Christmas at home with family and friends, their faces will be in my mind. I will rejoice in God's continuing commitment in love for the world.

The village, in which the little yet essential means of life were shared with thankfulness to God and a looking to the needs of each, was a microcosm of the kingdom of God and the reign of the Prince of Peace. But this Christ child impresses on us how our world knows increasing division between rich and poor. Like the wise men who offered gifts, we are challenged to include in our celebration that which we can offer for the need of the world. That challenge will especially be with us this coming year when Britain both hosts the annual G8 gathering of powerful world leaders and heads up the European Union.

I pray that we will take both the celebratory good news and the challenge of the Christ child among us into those deliberations and our daily lives.

So may we know the blessing of God this Christmastide."

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