A letter from the Vicarage – Rev’d Andy Stand

What I wonder, for you is particularly unique about the Christian faith? What aspect of your belief and faith, if any, would you say is distinctly Christian, and may not be shared by other people who confess faith and belief in a different faith story?

One answer to that question, may be found, in the Christmas story. The story of how God became human, in the person of Jesus Christ: how God became Emmanuel – God with us, God among us – sharing our humanity, our needs, our desires, our joys, our griefs, our loves and our losses.

What does that mean to you, I wonder? Would you agree with me?

Let me invite you to reflect with me, upon your Journey with God. How and where do you experience God in your journey through life? How much of a comfort to you is the belief, that no matter the hardships of your current situation, Jesus has been there and experienced, if not the exact same situation that you face, then similar and worse ones?

We know from the Nativity plays, that the Christmas stories, involve different journeys. Everyone seems to be journeying from somewhere to somewhere different. Mary and Joseph, journey from their home to Bethlehem; the Magi journey from the East; the shepherds journey down from the hillside, from the countryside into the town.

Mary and Joseph do so in response to the Roman declaration of the census; the Magi in response to their observation of the heavens, of the stars; the shepherds at the invitation of the angels.

How, I wonder, were each of them aware of the presence of God with them as they journeyed?

What will draw us, to gather again, or possibly for the first time, at the manger to worship the Christ child?

As we move through December, through Advent, the season of preparation and of waiting, we encounter other characters and journeys. Mary journeys to share in the delight of pregnancy with her cousin, Elizabeth. In a conflation of the events of the story we will hear, John the Baptist’s call, during his own journey through the wilderness, echoing that of the prophet Isaiah, to prepare the way for the one that is to come.

I guess that for the shepherds the journey from the hillside into the town was over familiar ground. The Magi on the other hand will have been journeying blind, not sure of their final destination, or what it was they were journeying to. Presumably for Joseph at least, his journey back to his family’s ancient home town was one he had made maybe a few times before; for Mary it may well have been her first time.

In this Advent season as we prepare to celebrate again, the birth of Christ, how will we each journey, as individuals and as a worshipping community, with the various characters from the Christmas story? Will we be aware of the presence of God with us, the presence of Emmanuel? Will we journey over strange or familiar territory this year?

Where is it we wish to journey to? Who or what will we follow as we journey? And what might hold us back and/or what might call us forward with excitement and anticipation of joy?

May God bless us all with a knowledge of His presence and His love, with us this Christmas, as it was in that first Christmas, whose story we hear each year, and whose story we are called as Christians, to re-enact making the knowledge of the presence of God, our present to those around us.

May God bless us all.
And Wishing You All a Happy Christmas.


St. Philip & St. James Parish Church Whittington, Worcs. WR5 2RQ