Be generous - Christmas message from the Methodist President

The Revd Alison Tomlin, The President of the MethodistConference, calls on the Methodist people to be generous thisChristmas to those in need, those in pain and to God. She askspeople to reflect how they are developing as disciples, learningabout God and serving those in need throughout the world.

Alison admits that she finds it hard to "write a Christmas messagein November," not only because she is quite a last minute person,but also because she likes to reflect before speaking. She remindsus that Advent is a time to reflect on God's word before "thechallenge of God's coming amongst the poorest and the least."

Alison concludes by saying "I pray that your celebration ofChristmas will be a joy filled renewal of your faith. I pray toothat we will offer generous hospitality to those in need; generoussupport to those in pain and distress; generous and safe space toall for whom this time is full of painful memories, grief andhardship; and generous praise to our God who chooses to dwellamongst us."

The full text follows:

I find it very difficult to write a Christmas message in November.That's partly a personality quirk, in that however long I spendthinking, reflecting and praying about something, I always do thework at the very last minute.

More importantly, however, it is about my approach to the whole ofthe Christian Year. I am unable to celebrate the joy of Easter Dayuntil I have prayed my way through Lent and Holy Week, and spenttime at the foot of the cross. Similarly, I don't rejoice in thewonder and awe of the incarnation until I have prayed and reflectedthrough the waiting time of Advent. I am sorry that we sometimesallow ourselves to be pressed into very early carol services whenAdvent is such an amazing season. We are offered time to reflect onGod's Word - as if four weeks could possibly be long enough toexplore more than a tiny part of it. We can notice again thechallenge of the biblical story with all its centuries of learningabout God, and finally the challenge of God's coming among thepoorest and the least.

We can take space to reflect on the whole church, the people ofGod, and our faith history as individuals as well as the faithhistory of God's faithful communities. How have we responded interms of worship; of our learning about God and developing asdisciples; and of our service to those in need throughout theworld?

We are reminded too that this annual celebration of God's comingamong us is also a time to reflect on what all the references toChrist's coming again might mean for us. After all on most of theoccasions when we gather at the Lord's Supper, we say "Christ willcome again". How would I measure up to the parable of the sheep andthe goats in Matthew's Gospel if Christ should come again tomorrow?Is that why the Feast of Christ the King comes just beforeAdvent?

And then we are invited to reflect on the days before that firstChristmas - thinking about Elizabeth and Zachariah and their babyJohn (and his life); about Mary and her response to God and thejourney of her life; even, if we have time, about Joseph and thechanges in his life. So we reach Christmas itself ready to beamazed and awed by the coming of the baby who is our Saviour. Andthen we can celebrate the Christmas season from the midnightcommunion for the whole of the twelve days of the Feast!

I had the humbling privilege of being brought up in a Christianhome. We sang carols together at Christmas and on twelfth night weread the whole story and each chose a carol for this final day whenour decorations were taken down. I remember that every single yearthis conclusion of the Christmas season was a moving and joyoustime. Even now in my memory so many years later I rejoice in all itshowed me of God and of our celebration of that coming.

So I hope you have allowed yourself time to reflect and pray thisAdvent. I pray that your celebration of Christmas will be a joyfilled renewal of your faith. I pray too that we will offergenerous hospitality to those in need; generous support to those inpain and distress; generous and safe space to all for whom thistime is full of painful memories, grief and hardship; and generouspraise to our God who chooses to dwell amongst us.