The Presidential Christmas message



  • You can listen to the Christmas message as a podcast here

The President and Vice-President of the Methodist Conferencehave reminded people of the importance of 'welcome' in this year'sPresidential Christmas message.

The Revd Steven Wild and Dr Jill Barber highlight the centralsignificance of Emmanuel, 'God-with-us', and how we can encounterGod through welcoming others.

Click here tolisten 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 astable. It was a busy time when the census was being taken and thisyoung couple had little resources. I wonder if people saw them assomeone I had a conversation with on the train recently did? Theydescribed the refugees at Calais as an 'inconvenience'. The kindinnkeeper didn't treat this young couple as an inconvenience asothers in Bethlehem did, but helped them in their time of need.

Emmanuel, 'God-with-us', is not selective to one particularclass or type of person. No one is inconvenient to the God who iswith us, His great grace reaches to all people whoever theyare.

Jill Barber and I have both been blessed on our overseasjourneys by being shown hospitality and care by some very poorpeople; the depth of care and love has made a profound impressionon us.

This year one of our themes is Mission and Heritage. We cannotforget how many of the early Methodists were poor people: little inthe bank but rich in faith. John Wesley wrote about social holiness- about being practical in your faith. As shown in the letter fromJames in the epistles, "faith without deeds is useless" (James2:20). As early as 1740, not long after his own life-changingexperience, John Wesley set out to make collections for the poor,he helped the unemployed, started a lending society, hospitalvisitations, a people's dispensary. He did all he could to feed andclothe the poor with organisations that seem quaint to us - 'TheFemale 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 needto hear. I sometimes think that the way my children behaved onChristmas morning is a parable of many people's attitude in societytoday. They would open lovely presents and then leave the presentand start to play with the empty box or the wrapping paper! Manyfolk today are like that they miss out on the main point ofChristmas - Jesus, Emmanuel, 'God-with-us' - and instead get takenup 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 Iwas in Knutsford recently a lady came to faith who had got intoconversation with one of the church ladies at the coffee morning.She'd said that she'd like to come to church and the Methodist ladyarranged 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 withthem, a way of your church helping to bring someone to faith.

There is an energy in 'Emmanuel'. It is the ever-present God towhom none of us are an inconvenience but are loved andcherished.

The Vice-President's message:

As we've travelled around the Connexion and visited churches andcommunities in these islands and around the world, we have beenwelcomed, we have been fed, we have shared stories and we haveencountered God in expected and unexpected ways. In the coming daysas we once again celebrate the coming of the Christ-child, let ussee beyond the wrappings and the tinsel - that can so easilydisguise the true meaning and numb our senses - to encounter theone who is Emmanuel, 'God-with-us'.

In that first coming: there were journeys across country andacross countries; there was the fearful experience of no welcome,no room; there was the dependence upon the ingenuity and sheerdogged determination of parents-to-be; there was the terrifyingescape from tyrants and violence; there was the horror of news ofthose who didn't or couldn't escape; and there were days on theroad heading into another land. This is the experience of our Godcoming among us and this is the experience of millions of peoplearound the world today, tomorrow and in the coming days.

We have received welcome. Can we now be that prophetic peoplewho seek to offer welcome, to challenge injustice and take steps,however small, to work for justice and peace in our communities andin our world? Part of that will be through generous giving to suchthings as All We Can: Methodist relief and development, andpart of it will be opening hearts and lives to the stranger.The Enough campaign, launched by the Methodist Churchwith our partner Churches, calls on the government to ensure thatthe welfare state holds to its founding principles, and seeks toprovide enough for a basic standard of living, so that every familyand every child can survive and thrive. It will also involve beingthat prophetic voice, which can be so unpopular, that speaks outand gives voice to those who either have no voice or whose voice issilent.

As we reminded the Methodist Conference in our addresses we arecalled to find our voice and be a people of prayer, prophecy,protest and passion so that the Word may become flesh and dwellamong us full of grace and truth.