Church Matters December 2019

So, we’re back into the Christmas season again, and one that might prove just a little different from recent years. As I write this article I have yet to see the 2019 John Lewis TV advert, or indeed any promise that it will arrive this year (a quick scan of their website is remarkably lacking in any information), so that may be different. But perhaps TV may not be so dominated by the retail sector this year.

It will of course have an air-time rival – the General Election called for 12 December. And I don’t think that it will be just air-time that is challenged, but perhaps the thinking capacity of many people across the nation. We have become so conditioned to think about Christmas from Halloween and Fireworks Night onwards, I suspect that having a General Election placed in its path may delay any thoughts of Christmas preparations. Perhaps John Lewis are playing a canny hand. If you’ve followed the political debate, perhaps wearily, over the past months and years then there’s no doubt that an Election offers some hope of a new form of government that might move beyond the division, wrangling and unpleasantness that we now experience at Westminster. I’m sure that those who are closely involved in political parties are convinced that success in the Election will bring a decisive break-through, but I’m not so sure.

I recognise that in all my voting life there has always been an element of favourable presentation of statistics and political spin, but it now seems to be a valued art-form, with clarity and truth hard to come by. To me, from an earthly and human perspective there are no obvious answers to the challenges this country faces, irrespective of which party wins. If you’ve ever been to a carol service you may have heard the following: “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the greatness of his government and peace there will be no end.” This comes from the Old Testament prophet Isaiah, who himself was writing in troubled times. He was speaking about the birth of Jesus, and how his birth will bring something new into the world. I find it intriguing that amongst the many things that Isaiah could have said about the birth of a child, he was prompted by God to speak of government and peace. Many Christians will understand exactly what Isaiah was saying. When someone accepts the gift into their lives that Jesus is, then often what happens is a gradual change from chaos to peace – a sense of earthly affairs coming under the beneficial governance of God. I think it’s a gift that’s available to individuals, organisations, counties and nations – and to neglect the gift courts problems. To paraphrase one of the Psalms – unless the Lord builds it, the builders build in vain. My closing prayer for us all at the end of 2019 is that the light of Jesus Christ may truly dawn in our lives, homes and this nation. May you have a blessed and peaceful Christmas.

Tony Stephens 01579-371496