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TWIXMAS (Views from the Abbey 2)

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Twixmas is a British slang word used to describe the period between Christmas and New Year, typically the 27-30 December. It is used a lot in the tourism industry when advertising holidays or events during this period. Personally, I rather like the word because it somehow does describe that rather weird period when the key events of Christmas – Christmas Day and Boxing Day – are over but the festivities of New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day have not yet started. These few days have become a rather insane period in the yearly calendar with lots of cars on the road as people travel either home after being away visiting family for Christmas, or simply moving on to the next set of relatives to be visited for New Year, or off to the shops to buy those bargains on offer in the Sales.

For working clergy Twixmas is often a welcome break after all the energy sapping activity of Advent and Christmas with its numerous services, carol singing in the hospitals and old people’s homes, etc., etc., and before the start of another New Year with all its challenges and possibilities. Church-wise most activities are closed at this time – some churches don’t even meet for worship on the last Sunday in the year – so we can actually get some sleep, rest, recovery time (in between seeing family and friends ourselves, that is).

Julia and I like to use this time, not only to recharge our batteries but, to think prayerfully about where we would like to see the church go during the coming year. Although Julia is the Minister at Abbey (and I am just the BOGOF) we still operate very much as a team. Our specific roles in that team may have changed down through the years, and I have happily taken on board an amended version of John the Baptist’s words:  ‘She must increase whilst I must decrease’ (John 3:30), but we remain a team nevertheless even though I have no primary role in the leadership team at Abbey. This does not prevent me, however, from playing an important supporting role, especially when it comes to talking through our situation, prayerfully waiting on God for guidance as to the best way forward, encouraging each another in our respective roles and ministries, and so on.

Twixmas is also a good time to take stock. To look back and see what we have learned during the past year which is of value, but also to look forward to what might be in the future. We have been inspired in this by our Bible readings this week which have centered on the stories of Simeon’s Song and Anna’s Prophecy associated with the events surrounding that first Christmas time (Luke 2:21-40). Essentially, we see here Simeon looking back to see how God has been with Israel in the past and how all that God has done for his people during that time has culminated in this wonderful event, the birth of the Christ-Child, the Promised Messiah. Anna, by way of contrast, looks forward prophetically to what is going to be, the redemption of God’s people, not simply believing Jews but all who will in due course turn to God in Christ and commit themselves to him and his plans and purposes. And God is looking for a similar response from us. A looking back in recognition of the solid foundation on which we build, coupled with a looking forward in recognition of all that God is calling us to in the future. And what does that entail?

Perhaps it is best summed up in something someone sent me just a few days ago:

When the carols have been stilled,

When the star-topped tree is taken down,

When family and friends are gone home.

When we are back to our schedules

THE WORK OF CHRISTMAS BEGINS

To welcome the refugee,

To heal a broken planet,

To feed the hungry,

To build bridges of trust, not walls of fear,

To share our gifts,

To seek justice and peace for all people,

To bring Christ’s light to the world.

Of course, this is all very good on paper – the real problem comes when we have to seek to put it all into practice come the New Year? But putting it into practice is what we must do both as individual Christians and as local churches. This is the challenge for us at Abbey. It is not a challenge just to the Minister, Elders and Deacons but to all of us who name the Name of Christ.  Invariably we know what the will of God is … actually doing it, however, is an entirely different matter!?

Jim Binney

 

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