Here is my output to the Christmas letters for Rayleigh and Hockley/Hawkwell Methodist church magazines…..
No room at the Inn
As we approach Christmas and keep in mind our theme of journeying towards the kingdom, my mind is drawn to the journey of Mary and Joseph to Bethlehem.
I think it is easy for us to get caught up in the fairytale story of Christmas, of donkeys, inn-keepers and stables, and forget the two real people caught up in the biblical Christmas narrative.
A few years ago I was struck by the stark re-telling of the story on the BBC written by the same authors who write for Eastenders. Mary and Joseph we saw as young people caught up in the shame of Mary being an unmarried expectant mother. There was no room for them, as they were not welcome due to the shame they had put their family in. We saw a frightened young couple trying to find a space for Mary’s baby to be born.
Tonight, as I sit down to write this message for our December magazine; I have just come from a circuit meeting. I’ve heard the story of the first 2 Saturday nights of our Night Shelter at Chalkwell Park, and was shocked to hear that one of the guests was a homeless young girl who is 3 months pregnant. A real reminder of our Christmas narrative, another homeless journeying pregnant expectant mother, for whom there has not been a welcome.
When the Angel visited Mary, she was told that God had chosen her to bear the son of God (Luke 1)
The angel said to her, ‘Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favour with God. And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David. He will reign over the house of Jacob for ever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.’
Mary accepts her role and sets out on her journey praising God and saying:
“My soul magnifies the Lord,
and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour.”
As we think of the Journey that Mary and Joseph took over 2000 years ago, we need also to think of the holy land this Christmas. Again the BBC programme “The Nativity” reminded us that Mary and Joseph were travelling through an occupied land, and that the occupying Roman soldiers were not famed for their kindness and compassion. Mary and Joseph would now not be able to take that journey, as they would not get through the checkpoints or the separation wall to travel from Nazareth to Bethlehem. I must admit, having visited Bethlehem, and having seen the wall, having had guns pointed at me at the checkpoints, I do not feel I can sing “O little town of Bethlehem”, as the line “How still we see thee lie”, does not ring true today. The wall, the checkpoints, make it feel, as if there is no welcome, no room in the Inn for those Christians and Muslims who wish to remain in their indigenous home.
As we approach this Christmas, as we journey through advent, let’s go on that journey with Mary. As we set off, we must realise that this journey is not going to be easy, and it’s not going to be comfortable. As we journey with her, let’s seek to discern and accept what God is calling us to do, where he is calling us to go, and then when we get there rejoice in our saviour as he comes afresh to us this Christmas.
We are hoping for there to be an opportunity for people to enter into this journey, and host Mary and Joseph for a night as we run up to Christmas. What we will be asking people to do, is receive Mary & Joseph brought to them early evening one day, and look after them overnight, and then on the evening of the next day, take them on to their next host family. When you hand them over, please take a moment to pray the prayer that comes with them, and provide a cup of tea, a cake, a glass of something for those who bring them. (Don’t worry about beds, or food, Mary and Joseph will be quite comfortable on your mantelpiece or side board overnight).
Caroline, Jessica and myself would like to wish you all a Merry Christmas and a very Happy and Blessed New Year.