From the Vicar...
One of my favourite things this time of year at St John’s is welcoming local children for their school nativity plays and Christmas services. The church is abuzz with tinselled stars and tea-towelled shepherds. Parents juggle phones to capture the perfect shot of their adorable angel, whilst quietly dabbing a proud, teary eye.
Even I’ve learned to make sure there’s a hanky in my pocket on such occasions. I never got to play Mary in my school nativity play; I had the non-speaking ‘second child in pyjamas’ part, who, on Christmas Eve, heard the story of that first Christmas, sitting by a cardboard fireside. I'm over it now, but it was a source of private envy for some years; I longed for the starring role!
Once again we will create the nativity scene under the altar at the front of church, and once again we will tell the Christmas story at our Christmas services; the story of Jesus who came to bring peace on earth and whose birth brings people together from tired, poor shepherds to travelling kings. We too are drawn to the sight of the scene in the stable, gathered at the crib, we realise we are all bound to one another, all involved in humankind. It’s why we might shed a tear with the foster dad on the skateboard in the John Lewis advert. Just like the big-hearted man who makes room in his life for a lost child at Christmas time, we know that no one is supposed to be forgotten and isolated; we are made to be with each other.
That’s why every Christmas we support the work of the Children’s Society, a national charity working to transform the hopes and happiness of young people facing abuse, exploitation and neglect. For years now, you have given so generously at our Christingle services, and this year your care and generosity are needed more than ever.
The nativity might seem sentimental in a world with more serious concerns, but its message rings true; we are family, and Christmas really is all about love. We might not all have the starring role, but there is room for us all in this story. The story of the little child who tells us that each child, and each person, is precious, each is created in God’s image and each has the capacity to love and be loved. May this ring true here in East Dulwich and Peckham; in our homes, our schools, and in Bethlehem this Christmas.
Revd Gill O’Neill