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A few years ago my wife, Karen, and I were asked to be Godparents for a friend’s child. The baptism was in the run-up to Christmas and coincided with the children of that church performing their nativity play.

Imagine the scene. At the front you have Mary, Joseph and the baby Jesus in the manger, attended by shepherds and wise men. Standing behind this gathering there are a couple of boys dressed up in furry costumes as a cow and a donkey. They are standing behind the gathering but standing in front of the communion table where there are lighted candles – it was Christmas after all. I couldn’t take my eyes off the ox and the ass who were obviously a little bored. So much so that the ox turned around and experimented with holding his furry hoof over the candle flame. A little bit of smoke appeared. He then encouraged the ass to do the same. I clearly wasn’t the only person who had noticed because at this point an adult swept in and quickly removed them.

They say you shouldn’t work with children or animals. This would suggest that working with children dressed as animals might be even more unwise. They also say that Christmas is for the children – with nativity plays in which to appear; and Santa to go visit; and presents to receive and so on and so on. Or, and I certainly go with this, that Christmas is for the child within all of us whose heart is still touched by twinkling lights and all the other magical elements.

In truth, though, Christmas is for everyone and especially us adults when we get to understand the real substance that can remain hidden beneath all the upfront style. Without that understanding it remains a present that may well have the most beautiful wrapping but which never gets unwrapped.

So here’s my unwrapping of Christmas in three quick and easy steps:

  1. The promise of the Christmas angels is one of peace and goodwill and boy does this world need to hear that right now. It gives us hope of what IS possible. Things can be different.
  2. The message of a new born saviour for the world is given to both those ‘at the top’ – the kings – and those ‘at the bottom’ – the shepherds. The hope is for everyone and NOBODY is excluded from it.
  3. One name given to this new-born baby is Emmanuel which means ‘God is with us’. At the heart of Christian faith has always been that, through Jesus, God created a direct link to this world which has never and will never be broken. That is the foundation upon which our hope stands.

As Christmas approaches, I pray it may bring much happiness to you but also that you may be able to see beyond its wrappings and trappings and grasp something of the hope that lies within.

Rev Steve Mann (Minister at Capel Methodist Church)
8 Roundridge Rd, Capel St Mary, Ipswich, IP9 2UG
Email: irmaminister@methodistic.org.uk / 01473 311 178

Capel Methodist: In Church and Online every Sunday 10.15am for 10.30am start

Sunday, 3 December Keith Ponsford
Sunday, 10 December Simon Scott
Sunday, 17 December Emma Bowyer
Sunday, 24 December Rev Steve Mann
Christmas Day at 9.30am Rev Steve Mann
Sunday, 31 December Local Arrangement

Brantham Methodist Church at 11am
Minister at Brantham Methodist Rev Ian Gardner
34 Medway Road, Ipswich, IP3 0QH
Email: ian.gardner@methodist.org.uk / 01473 411 507

Sunday, 3 December Rev Ian Gardner with Holy Communion
Sunday, 10 December at 2.30pm, Songs of Praise
Sunday, 17 December Ruth Loggie
Sunday, 24 December Local Arrangement
Sunday, 31 December Anna Howes

Online services are available 24/7 on the Circuit: www.methodistic.org.uk and Capel church: www.capelmethodistchurch.org.uk websites.