From the Manse

Glory to God in the highest and on the earth peace..."

Luke 2:14

At a recent meeting of leaders from Churches Together in Four Oaks I was asked, if I had heard of 'Doodle'. 'No, I haven't', I replied. 'boodle', some of you will probably know, is a computer application which radically simplifies the process of agreeing and scheduling future meeting dates and times.

Here was another example for me of the rapid technological change that is occurring in the world which is difficult to keep pace with. Further evidence of this technological change is seen in one 4 year old little girl' encounter with Father Christmas. Having climbed on his knee, she was asked the customary question, "And what would you like for Christmas?" In utter shock the little girl stared back open mouthed at Santa for what seemed an age and then in an astonished voice asked, "Didn't you get my email?

Technology is indeed changing many things about our lives but there are some things that never seem to change. I have, for example, lost count of the number of peace agreements that have been signed by world leaders during my lifetime (Yes, I know that's a long time!). The majority of those agreements however have been short lived and as a consequence, war, conflict and chaos continue to be an ever present feature of our world.

One such short lived episode of peace happened on 25th December 1914, during the First World War. While the Germans and the Allies faced each other across 'No Man's Land', someone began singing the carol 'Silent Night, Holy Night'. A hush fell over the battlefield as soldiers on both sides joined in the song. Men who had spent weeks trying to kill each other climbed out of the trenches, embraced and exchanged souvenirs and cigarettes. They even shared a game of football. Then on 26th December, they went back to their trenches once again to kill each other.

If, as it is often claimed, we all desire peace, what is our problem? Well, as someone once said, "the heart of the human problem is the problem of the human heart". I suspect the Apostle Paul would have concurred with that thought. After all, he was the one who maintained, "...all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" (Roman 3:23). A little later in the same letter and responding to his own question as to 'who can recue us from this situation', he exclaims, "Thanks be to God, through Jesus Christ our Lord" (7:24-25). In other words, in the gift of Jesus to the world Sod has brought the possibility of peace to human hearts and lives.

The true meaning of Christmas is this: the baby at Bethlehem was the one who came to sort it all out. He came into the mess of this world to teach and show us all a different way to live. The way back to God is open because of Jesus. The way back to peace with one another is through the practice of all he taught us about living and loving one another. No wonder he is called the Prince of Peace - For he is the ultimate peace agreement and that is something, I believe, will never change]

Wishing you all, peace in your hearts and homes this Christmas.

Alan