A letter from Joanna, our Associate Priest, November 2021
Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ
As we go into Advent, with all the preparations for Christmas just around the corner, we have so much to think about, so many things to remember that we bring with us into this season. It’s a good chance to ask ourselves the question “What is at the heart of Christmas?” There are so many possible answers that we might give, depending on who we are and what our lives are like. Some of us find conflicting emotions at the heart of it all. That makes sense when we remember the way the Christmas story begins – when the angel Gabriel gives a promise to Mary of great joy – but also warns her that the good news of her son’s birth would also bring sharp sadness.
There has been so much joy and sadness this year, as we have had to find new ways of living and working and going about our lives. Many of us have experienced such relief and happiness coming out of lockdown, exploring our local area or further afield as restrictions eased – seeing friends and family again, only to have to take further precautions as local Covid infections rose as schools returned and opportunities for gathering together became more frequent.
What is at the heart of Christmas for you? We are all invited to pause and think about how we might respond, as Mary did, remembering Gabriel’s message. St. Luke says that Mary “treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart.” The heart of Christmas might be hearing carols played by the band, or sharing a special meal with family. Perhaps it is going along to a Nativity play, or the giving and receiving of love in the shape of carefully chosen and wrapped gifts. It might be remembering loved ones from our past Christmas celebrations; as Mary knew, joy and sadness are so often wrapped together.
Whatever lies at the heart of Christmas for you this year, the message of the angels rings out for all of us, whether we are shepherds, inn-keepers, by-standers, wise men or women, or even “sheep – noises off-stage” – Be of good courage, God loves you and is with you always.
You are warmly invited to come and join any of our Advent & Christmas events at St Bartholomew’s in Marsden, Shred Church and St James Slaithwaite as we explore the message of God’s love for the world. Details of these are available elsewhere on the website or on social media (especially our facebook pages). Copies of the special “Heart of Christmas” bookmarks and booklets containing 12 reflections for each day of the Christmas season will be available (while stocks last) at St James & St Bartholomew’s to take away as a free gift if you would like one.
Please be assured that I, and Vicar Graeme, remember you always in our prayers each day. May God bless you, this Christmas and in the year to come, whatever it brings.
Rev. Joanna Fielding, Associate Priest for Marsden, Slaithwaite & East Scammonden.