Rector’s Letter – December/January
As I write this letter for the December January Across Exmoor I feel I ought to wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. Though both may still seem some way off we will be nearly a full month into the New Year when the next magazine comes out.
What do we mean by happy? Perhaps we mean content, fulfilled, loved, at peace with the world? Or perhaps, we think of happiness as a rather weak idea, a frivolous luxury after all the ‘real’ stuff has been struggled through. Human happiness is the goal of the Christian life. You might not realise this from some of the ways Christianity has been presented to you. Many presentations of Christianity seem quite the reverse focussing on ways people are judged to have failed. This is unnecessary and wrong. At the heart of Christianity is the idea that human beings are made in the image of God, reflecting God’s love in diverse ways expressing the full extent of God’s creativity.
On Advent Sunday our services look back to signs of the advent the coming, of Jesus in the Old Testament. The Advent Carol Service, at 6pm on 2nd December at Exford, will as usual feature the traditional carols and anthems specific to Advent. This year however, in addition to the traditional resonances of Advent in the music, I have chosen readings which highlight some aspects of God’s character which are then evident in the person of Jesus, when people met him. We will hear for example how God clothed Adam and Eve in the creation myth, echoed by Jesus whose encounter with the Gerasene Demoniac left him clothed and in his right mind; how Sarah laughed with God in Genesis, echoed in the way that Jesus joked with his disciples on the road to Emmaus; we will hear about Enoch, who breaks the pattern of the genealogy from Adam to Noah, with an extraordinary moment of intimacy and mystery characteristic of the New Testament.
The language we use about ourselves and others is important. It is in language that we give shape to our ideas, our sense of the world and our place in it and make space for others. Is the language we use really the best we can come up with as to express the love at the heart of the Christian faith? What do we really want to say to people who are important to us, especially at Christmas? The beautiful, familiar words printed in a Christmas card are nice but it is always the words that people themselves write in the card that mean more. This is the question to keep in mind, especially when we meet new and different people and ideas which can seem strange to us. These churches of Exmoor are for everyone, people of all faiths and none, people with enquiring, open minds; people who are seeking; not necessarily seeking answers but resources in their explorations and thinking. I am interested to hear your questions and thoughts as I prepare church services and gatherings and try to shape them with those questions and thoughts in mind. We have the beautiful and familiar words of the Christian tradition: what do we want to write in the card?
All the best, David