First Larne Presbyterian Church

First Larne Presbyterian Church

2018: What will you bring to the party?

If you are a member of First Larne or have been at a school assembly I have taken in the last few weeks you will know that in the Gospel accounts of the nativty there is no donkey actually mentioned nor does it specify the number of wise men/kings/magi! To be fair, the inclusion of the donkey is a reasonable assumption and the traditional three magi comes from the three significant gifts that are very specifically mentioned.

As we move into 2018 as a congregation I hope we will encourage one another with the three essential gifts we need if we are to be God's people and make a difference in our community - FAITH, HOPE and LOVE.

Take LOVE. I know that the love we see in the birth and life of Jesus is the love at the heart of God. It is love which is always reaching out, always welcoming, challenging and healing. God's love, shown in Jesus Christ, feels deeply and acts generously. It is the love we see in the manger and on the cross and in the journey of Jesus' life inbetween. So how can I be a transmitter of that love? 

I recently came across this quote from a Church of England blog: "LOVE is that gift that unwraps as we both receive and give it. We can find it in surprising places and can give it in unexpected ways". It's a not unlike what a character remarked in that much-loved (or at least oft-repeated!) Christmassy film "Love Actually": "If you look for it, I've got a sneaky feeling you'll find that love is actually all around." 

At first that struck me as somewhat wishy-washy and overly sentimental. However, it caused me to think what I, as a follower of Jesus, need to do to make that love real in a world where love can often be in short supply.

One particular statistic struck me this week that is not unconnected to the experience of the Holy Family who had to endure the 70 miles trek from Nazareth to Bethlehem at the behest of the Roman ruler and then had to flee to Egypt for fear of the so-called local despot. In our world today there are undoubtedly more refugees that at any other time in history. Some 65.6 million people are either displaced from their homes or are refugess in foreign lands. Over 50% of these people are caught up in the tragedies that are Syria, Afghanistan and South Sudan. In Syria alone some 12 million people (that is, 65% of the total population) are displaced. For such people it is not simply a matter of getting shelter until their home is fixed up or shopping in a different supermarket in a different town. They are away from the land that feeds them and sustains them and are, in the majority of cases, utterly destitute and helpless.

Faced with such crises what can I do? What does my love look like in response to this and other challenges in our world of 2018 - whether the challenge is near or far?

I don't have all the answers. Do you? But I am convinced, as a follower of the Messiah who came for me that first Christmas, that love is not just feeling bad about it; love is doing something about it. Love is actually all around and that is what I need to bring to 2018!