Author: David Arnott

Christmas Celebration?

Christmas Celebration?

Dear Friends
‘How can you celebrate Christmas in a place like this,’ the prisoner asked me? At the time I was a very part- time chaplain in Barlinnie Prison in Glasgow. It was the middle of December. It’s a refrain we are hearing just now in a different context as the COVID restrictions remain in place. How can we celebrate Christmas this year with all that is going on?

My answer to the prisoner is still relevant today I think. If you can’t celebrate Christmas in prison then you can’t celebrate it anywhere. The first Christmas was celebrated against a background of an occupying army, high taxes, despotic rulers and random acts of senseless slaughter. The background of Christmas highlights its meaning in sharp relief. The darker and blacker the sky the brighter the star shines.

How shall we sing the Lord’s song in a strange land asked the Jews in exile in Babylon centuries before? Eventually they realised they could sing with even greater confidence and strength because God was with them. So with Christmas this year we will celebrate, if not in large family gatherings, then rather with the reminder that Christmas means Immanuel-God with us. In these strange times the message of Christmas stands as a wonderful reminder we are not alone and never have been. So it will be that with confidence and strength we will wish people this year a very happy Christmas, and we will mean it.

Our services in advent will take up some of the traditional themes of the second coming and John the Baptist. The on-line services will continue this month. There will be a short service for Christmas Day, but there will be no Watchnight Service this year. There is a special treat on 20 December when the choir will lead us in an on-line service of lessons and carols. It promises to be an uplifting occasion . We also look forward to the return of Rev John Smith as our locum later this month. It will be good to have him back.

I wish you all a very happy Christmas
With best wishes
David

In the interim . . . .

In the interim . . . .

Dear Friends
During the period of John Smith’s absence as locum I have been asked to lead the on-line worship. I have no idea, however, what you might call a partial locum for a locum; temporary, interim, short-term were all mentioned. No matter what, they all suggest this is not a permanent arrangement, and we all look forward to John returning to his duties once his treatment is completed and I would ask you to continue to remember him in your prayers..
But we do live in a rather interim world at present don’t we? Life as we know it is on hold to some extent or another. We wait with growing frustration for these times to pass, as pass they will, so that life can return to what we once knew, and we can return to church as we used to do as well.
We are in the process of discovering, however, that there is new way of being church. There is another way of having our faith encouraged and our commitment strengthened from that which we once knew. Had anybody suggested a wee while ago, that we could be seated at home sharing in worship, yet still feeling part of an unseen congregation we would have found it hard to comprehend. But it is happening.
A friend of mine for whom I preach on occasion asked me to take a service one Sunday while she had a well-deserved break. From the comfort of my living room I conducted a live Zoom service for a congregation just south of Glasgow.
These are exciting times for the church, exciting times for our congregations as we look forward to working out how the church will look in the new norm we are told to expect. So many good thigs have emerged recently, so much talent rising to the challenge. It would be a shame to lose sight of that.
The story of the Bible is the story of a people on the move from Egypt to the Promised Land, from Jerusalem to exile in Babylon and back again, and in the New Testament the movement of a gospel, and people, from Jerusalem to Rome and beyond. We belong to that tradition of a people who have to keep on the move to keep pace with the God who is out in front leading us.
With best wishes
David

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