Christmas messages from our churches in South Rugby
Tim Cockell, Rector, St Mark's Church, Bilton
A Christmas Message
The last two years have been really difficult for all of us. We have had to comply with many restrictions and changes to our daily lives and nothing is going to be quite the same as it was before. Last Christmas we were allowed just one day to see our loved ones and to enjoy their company. This year things look to be different and at the time of writing there will not be those same restrictions. Let's hope it remains that way. Christmas is a time for family, for friends, for being in contact with those we haven't seen in the course of the year. It's a time when we want to put behind us the dark days of winter (and of Covid) and have an opportunity to celebrate and put some thought and hope into a better future.
As we celebrate our Christmas this year - however we choose to do that - I hope that we will all remember why we have Christmas celebrations at all. Far from being just a "Winter Festival" there is an important aspect to Christmas which is easy to over-look. The season is here because of the birth of Jesus Christ. We remember his coming among us - the Son of God born in our own human likeness. There is great hope in this; for now and for the future. And you can hear more about this amazing story by going along to one of the many services that will be taking place in the churches in the South Rugby area, where you will find not only a warm welcome but that message of hope too.
Wishing you all a happy and blessed Christmas and New Year.
Canon Gerard Murray, Sacred Heart Catholic Church, Bilton
No doubt the Christmas story means different things to different people. It is a dramatic and powerful story that claims our attention whether told in a Nativity play or during a solemn service in a church. We come to it with our different backgrounds. We come to celebrate this festival which lights up the darkest and difficult time of the year. And this year again we have to cope with the challenges of Covid and its effects on our lives and relationships.
CS Lewis said there are three Christmases – a religious one, a jolly one and an economic one. The challenge is to find the good in Christmas. Christmas can give us a vision of how we could be as individuals and community. Charitable giving and activities increase, we gather with friends and families and often reconnect with those with whom our bonds have weakened.
Christmas in all its shades and variations is a call to love and hope. It brings light to our midwinter dark. For Christians it is a reminder of God’s love for his human creation as God comes among us in humility and vulnerability in the birth at Bethlehem.
I wish you a blessed Christmas. May the spirit of peace and joy be with us all.
Ryan Baxter, Bilton Evangelical Church7
We probably all remember sitting in our homes on New Year's Eve last year and there was a tangible feeling, nationally, that the worst was soon to be behind us. The miserable 2020 was nearly over and 2021 was right around the corner, offering us a new hope! In hindsight, we probably put too much stock into this milestone and nearly 12 months on, the landscape is very different but we're all left with oddly similar feelings and questions. Will my Christmas be OK? Will the New Year bring new restrictions? How do you get an invitation to this year's Downing Street quiz?
Our world and individual worlds have suffered deeply over the past two years and will continue to suffer but the ultimate question is: where will we place our hope? Family and friends, government and scientists, money and security, distracting comforts? These aren't all bad places to pin our hopes but here at BEC we believe Jesus is the one true hope for our world and we pray that you meet Him this Christmas!
The pandemic is nothing new - our world has been suffering longer than our lifetimes. Injustice, wars, climate issues, famines, inequality, losing loved ones too soon. The list is endless. In response, Jesus humbled himself completely by surrendering his status and choosing to be born as a human baby. He walked our steps, felt our pain and ultimately took the full brunt of the world's suffering through the brutality of the crucifixion.
The birth of this saviour, which we celebrate at Christmas, changed the course of history forever and for those who place their hope in Him, you are promised a peace, joy and purpose which surpasses all understanding! We invite you this Christmas to begin this epic journey!
As one of your local churches, we are here for you during this season! Whether you need practical support, emotional support, or you're wrestling with life's big questions, we'd love to journey any and all of these things through with you! Our Christmas gatherings are pretty full at the moment but you can access them online through our YouTube channel: BEC Church. We're also very excited to be running some Alpha Courses (in-person and online) in the New Year where you can ask questions and explore the Christian faith.
From everyone here at BEC, we hope you all have a safe and fun Christmas and all joking aside, we pray that 2022 will be a blessed year for you!
Dave Woods, Dunchurch Baptist Church
I'd like to wish all the residents of our community, together with your friends and families, a joyful and peaceful Christmas. We live in very uncertain times and so how much more, then, do we need to remind ourselves of the reason for this season: God come down to earth in the form of a vulnerable baby seeking to draw all mankind to himself through faith, and with a particular concern for the poor (Mary and Joseph) the outcast (shepherds, in those days) and the foreigner (wise men).
If you know the story, you'll know that Jesus even became an asylum seeker shortly after his birth when his parents fled to Egypt in fear of an evil king (Herod). This is our God. He shares not only in our humanity but also in our suffering.
Two thousand years later his love for us is undimmed. I pray you will experience God's presence and protection this Christmas time.
Although it is perhaps a bit soon to do so, nevertheless, I would also like to take this opportunity to say farewell to any who know me but who I may not see before I retire at the end of April next year. I have loved leading the church and seeking to serve the community here in Dunchurch over the last 13+ years. I will miss you all and pray God's blessing upon you for the future.
Also to let you know that our target date for moving into the new Baptist Church building on Coventry Road is now early February. We will be arranging a few open days and special events to celebrate, and will publicise details soon.
Rev Pat Townshend, St Peter’s and St Edmund’s
Recently I have been reading about the Hebrew term "chesed" as used in the Old Testament. This term could be translated as "loving-kindness". It refers to God's acts of kindness to us, a loving kindness we have done absolutely nothing to deserve. It refers also to our acts of kindness not only to God but towards other people, regardless of whether or not we think they deserve them. It refers to a giving of ourselves in service.
In this Christmas season, I reflect on three of the characters in the story of the Nativity. Three people (and there were more) who showed loving-kindness. Mary, who said "yes" to God, an offering of herself which changed the world; Joseph whose "yes" in accepting in marriage a woman who was pregnant with a child which certainly wasn't his, was an act of loving-kindness which enabled salvation; the innkeeper, an often maligned character who thought out of the box and offered what he could, even though his inn was full.
This Christmas, may we practise "chesed", acting with loving-kindness to others, especially in these very difficult times, and serving God with the same loving-kindness God shows to us.
May we all have a blessed and peaceful Christmas.