A letter from the Vicarage – Rev’d Andy Stand

How do you approach making important decisions?

Do you seek advice and counsel from a close friend or family member? Would you consult a book to see what you can learn about the choices you face? Might you make a list of the pros and the cons of each option? How many other points of view do you take into account? I guess where a decision will directly affect other family members, and they are old enough to understand the importance of the decision, then you may well ask their opinion or even if opinion within the family is divided, you may give people a vote.

Beyond the bounds of the family though, who else might you consult or give a say to? Or if not actually give them a say who else might you consider? How far afield do you think when envisaging the consequences of your decisions?

I wonder, do you ever pray about the decisions you make? Would you ever read your bible to see what help or guidance or inspiration you could find there?

The Christmas story is full of people needing to make decisions for themselves as to the role they will play in the events that are unfolding around them: Mary confronted with an angelic visitation has to give her assent to the angels’ tidings; Joseph has to make the decision as to whether he is going to believe Mary and stand by her in her pregnancy – a pregnancy he knows he has played no part in ; the Magi watching their stars have to decide if they are going to believe their eyes and their interpretation of what they see, and embark on their lengthy journey from the East; Herod needs to decide what kind of king he is going to be, faced with the news of the birth of a new king of the Jews.

I wonder, how much did Mary and Joseph spend time in prayer while making their decisions; I wonder, how much the Magi had a conception of God, or a deity lying behind the movements of their stars, and so how much they prayed to God before they even set out on their pilgrimage.

In the wider stories of Advent and Epiphany (the other seasons before and after Christmas covered by this double edition of our magazine), the prophets who foretold the coming of the Christ child, need to decide how they will respond to the impetus of God that they heed; John the Baptist has to decide whether he will be the voice of one calling in the wilderness, the voice that calls successive generations to prepare their hearts for God; Jesus needs to decide if He will follow God’s calling, follow His vocation by being baptised by John; follow God’s guidance in the commission of his first disciples.

Do come and join us at any of our services over the season, as we celebrate God’s the Christmas story once again and the willingness and obedience of all those who were involved.

Before that though, we, as a nation, have a decision to make regarding who we want to run the country, and how we want to relate to our neighbours both in this country and abroad. I believe that, that is itself an important decision and should be made positively and prayerfully, not (and this is quite difficult for me) cynically and apathetically.

May God bless us all in the decisions we make and through the prayers we say in the coming days and years.

I wish everybody a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

Every blessing…

Revd. Andy Stand

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