15 December 2023
This year, the Methodist Church has chosen the carol O Little Town of Bethlehem as part of the Out of the Ordinary Christmas campaign. You can find more details about the resources available on the Methodist Church website, including reflections and resources for churches welcoming people in during Advent and over the Christmas period. With this carol in mind, this year’s Christmas message from the President and Vice-President invites us to think more deeply about the words of the carol and reflect on how we might use them this Christmas.
You can watch the video below, or read the text version further down on this page. We’ve also produced a version of the video without music, to trial making our video content as accessible as possible.
So God imparts to human hearts the blessings of his heaven🎶
Look at yourself. Where do you see the divine spark reflected back at you?
What does it feel like, I wonder, to be invited to do this, to see yourself as precious in God’s sight, someone who God has gifted gifts, skills and talents to share with others?
Actually Kerry and I have found that a very difficult thing to do ourselves. We did not know each other before we were elected as President and Vice-President earlier this year and, as we have got to know each other a little better, over the course of these months, we have discovered that both of us, like many other people, suffer from what we call ‘Imposter Syndrome’. We look at ourselves and we don’t recognise that we have anything much to offer. We look at ourselves and we don’t see any treasure. We look at ourselves and we see all the things that are wrong about us, all the things that we don’t like about us, or all the things that other people can do much better than we can!
As we have travelled around the Connexion over the last few months, we have noticed that lots of us don’t recognise ourselves as treasure.
We don’t think our story is of value! We don’t think WE are of value and we wonder, how can God possibly use us?
In the Christmas story, the shepherds probably thought of themselves as “nothing people”. They were on the edge of society, looked down on by some, but God chose them to be part of God’s story, a story told from generation to generation. A reminder to all of us to see the divine spark in ourselves.
You won’t always know the impact you have on others. Just occasionally, though we get encouragement from someone who tells us that something we have done, perhaps something ordinary, something we don’t think anything of doing, has made a difference to them.
Just before the Conference, earlier this year, I received a really encouraging message from someone alongside whom I had studied over 25 years ago. Every week, following their work alongside those on the edges of our society, those that perhaps many of us think of as “nothing people”. I sat with them to eat a meal and hear about their experiences in that work. Unbeknown to me, others had refused to sit alongside them because of where they’d been and who they’d mixed with. I did something very simple and ordinary, sitting, listening, eating. But to them it had meant a great deal and had been and extraordinary experience.
Yet in thy dark street shineth the everlasting light🎶
Look at the people around you. Where do you notice the divine reflecting back at you?
Sometimes, God speaks to us through others. And that affirmation from others can help us see and understand our own gifts – and to understand more about God.
In the Christmas story, Mary would undoubtedly have been having a difficult and confusing time. But when she meets her cousin, Elizabeth, Elizabeth’s baby leaps within her in recognition of the divine, the baby that Mary was carrying in her womb. Elizabeth shared her experience and offered affirmation to Mary. She recognised the treasure within Mary.
I wonder how we can create opportunities to really notice the people around us? The people in our church, in our community. To really listen to one another’s stories and to help each other see that we are treasure.
What’s getting in the way of us doing that more? We need to make space , sift our diaries to be able to spot the hidden treasure.
We have been so encouraged by people who have shared with us their creativity – through art and crafts, through songs, and testimonies and words of encouragement. We have heard people share their own sense of call and vocation to where they are serving.
And, as Gill and I have done these things, we’ve talked with others about often very deep and difficult life experiences and how we’ve found the divine, the treasure, despite the pain.
Above thy deep and dreamless sleep the silent stars go by🎶
Look at the world around you. Where do you see glimmers of the divine there?
Our final encouragement to you is to seek and find treasure in the world and the community around us.
The hymn ‘O Little Town of Bethlehem’ seems particularly poignant this year.
All that happened in that town 2,000 years ago and all that’s happening in that part of the world now, sadly remind us that nothing much has changed.
We are still caught up in conflict and challenge, fear and uncertainty. Israel – Palestine is particularly on our minds and our hearts.
God is still present even in the most difficult places. In the Christmas story, there is evidence of terror, jealousy, hatred and barbaric behaviour. Jesus and his family fled for their lives, seeking refuge and yet the divine story unfolded in the midst of all that.
And in our communities today, the same extraordinary things are happening. Treasure is being found amongst the ordinary activities of life.
So, how will you make space, yourself, with your family, with your church, or with your community, this Christmas to discover the extraordinary amongst the ordinary?
We wish you all a peaceful, joyful and extraordinary Christmas.