This past year, the movement of refugees has often been in the news, whether because of the many lives of migrants lost on boats sinking in the Mediterranean, the debates in Europe about numbers of refugees, or the fears following the terrible Paris attacks.
The Christmas story is full of the movement of people, sometimes greeted with rejection, sometimes with compassion, sometimes with suspicion and fear. In the background wicked forces are at work, such as King Herod killing many children in Bethlehem as he seeks to destroy Jesus. And so Mary, Joseph, and Jesus flee as refugees to Egypt.
But the greatest movement of the Christmas Story is that of God himself, who left heaven to come into our world as a baby, in the person of Jesus Christ. Referring to Jesus’ birth, the angel said to Joseph,”they will call him Immanuel, which means God with us” (Matt 1:23). So God comes into our world, into our darkness – to bring us His light, to give us hope, peace and joy, all of which are found in him.
But this Christmas each of us has to decide how to respond as God, in Christ, moves towards us. Will we treat him with indifference, have no room for him in our busy lives? Will we respond like Herod, fearful that He poses a threat to our way of life. Or will we welcome Him, even worship Him as the Wise Men and the Shepherds did.
It is fitting that at Christmas we make time not only to buy and give gifts, and to celebrate and have Christmas parties, but to also make time to welcome and worship Christ. You can do that quietly on your own at any point, but our Candlelight Carol services (at 6:30pm on 13th and 20th December), Kids’ Carol service (12th December at 3:30pm), and our Christmas morning Service (10:30am Christmas day) are great times to do that with others. You are welcome to join us at any or all of these times.
Christ says that when we welcome others – neighbours, refugees, or those in need, it is as if we are welcoming Him. So at this Christmas time, particularly look out for your neighbours, for those who may be isolated or new to the area, and for those in need. As a church, one of the ways we do that is by joining with many other churches in the city to put on a night shelter for the homeless in Brighton through the winter months. If you would like to join us in welcoming and serving the homeless, Holland Road Baptist Church’s part will be on Sunday nights from the end of January to March. Note: applications to take part are now closed.
If you are reading this while waiting for one of our carol services to start, thanks for coming to celebrate with us. Wherever you are reading this, I pray that you may know God’s blessing, peace and presence this Christmas, and as we start a new Year.