20 December 2013
Presidents Christmas message
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The Revd Ruth Gee, President of the Methodist Conference, has called on the Methodist people to celebrate God's generosity by being generous disciples.
In her Christmas message, the Revd Ruth Gee urged people to "celebrate and share the generous love of God who mothers us and longs to wipe away our tears, and to nurture us so that we can become the people she has created us to be."
Her message also advised people on how to respond to God's "generous love" which is "offered to all".
"We should respond by being generous disciples," she said. "We can be generous with our time; time spent with God and time spent with others. Only if we spend time with God will we grow to know God better."
The full text of the President's Christmas message follows:
When I first went to Yorkshire I had to learn a new language. Apart from three years when I was at university in Hull, I had lived in the south of England, and there were words and phrases that were completely unfamiliar to me. I learned that having a pot on meant that you were wearing a plaster cast and that to 'play pop' was to make a fuss. I learned to sing about chiming Christmas bells between the verses of 'While shepherds watched' and I discovered that the 'Cornish' served in the lunch club was nothing like the Cornish Pasties enjoyed in the South West.
One word that was often used by people in Yorkshire was 'real'. People were said to be real if they were genuine and trustworthy. To be described as real was a seal of approval, it meant that a person or a thing was authentic and true.
Several years ago, I visited Florence. In a number of places in that city you can see replicas of Michelangelo's David and they are very beautiful. If you want to see the original sculpture, you need to go into the Academia, in which it is the major exhibit. The David in the Academia is 'real', it is undoubtedly the real thing and it stands out from all the copies. As you look at it you can see the skill, the style and the technique of Michelangelo, there is something of the artist himself in his creation.
At midnight on Christmas Eve, in many of our churches the central candle will be lit in the Advent wreath. The white candle symbolises the birth of Jesus, the light of the world. This is the start of Christmas. This is the moment when we remember that: "The Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory." It doesn't get much more real than this. In Jesus we see, and we encounter, the creator of the universe, the artist who weaves the fabric of our being. This is the reality that God is with us.
God is with us - how exciting and awesome is that? In all the busyness of the festival, don't forget to be excited. Christmas is not only for the children! Celebrate the birth of Jesus, and share the good news of God's generous love as widely as you can. Celebrate and share the generous love of God who sent his only son so that we might know the father through the child. Celebrate and share the generous love of God who mothers us and longs to wipe away our tears, and to nurture us so that we can become the people she has created us to be.
I remember so clearly the first time that I held each of my children in my arms. I remember the overwhelming love I felt for them and I hoped that they would love me too. I couldn't demand their love, I have no right to it, but I longed for it. If you kneel at the manger this Christmas and look into the eyes of the baby, you may find that you are filled with love and you might discover a longing for the generous love of God?
God's generous love is offered to all of us and invites a response from us. How can we respond?
We should respond by being generous disciples. We can be generous with our time; time spent with God and time spent with others. Only if we spend time with God will we grow to know God better. How generous are we with the time we spend in prayer? I find that it is all too easy to rush through prayer or to be distracted by other worthy things, which are themselves impoverished if they are not grounded in prayer.
We can also be generous with our resources, with our gifts and skills and with our money. And we can be generous with our love, love of God and love of others which is often shown when we engage with, and respond to, challenges and needs in society.
In all this we are joyful. We are filled with the deep and real joy of those who know that they are loved and valued beyond measure. When we have this much real joy in our lives we have to celebrate and we have to share.
I pray that you will all have a joyful, peaceful and blessed Christmas and that you will find the space and the time to kneel at the manger, to look deep into the eyes of Jesus and to glimpse the glory of God. Then you will know that Christmas is real.