LETTER FROM THE MANSE. firstname.lastname@example.org November 2013
For a variety of reasons this edition of UPDATE is being issued a week earlier than usual. This is to fit in with the schedule for the Christmas message to the town which is being delivered during the last week of November in time for the First Sunday of Advent. Advent is to have an important focus for us this year as you will be aware by the time you are reading this.
However, the phrase “a week earlier than usual” is a modest time scale, and now you might want to picture me wearing a “Bah, humbug” hat! On 14th October we were in Perth for a family birthday celebration and as we walked to the restaurant, twinkling above George Street – yes, you’ve guessed it – Christmas Lights! Now, I know that it takes time to get the lights ready in towns and cities, but it does seem rather too early to have the lights on in mid-October!
As a family our Christmas decorations never went up until after the 16th December, the date of Andy’s birthday – and this is something we still do even although he has not been living in the Manse for quite some time!
When we lived in Bangladesh, as Christians in a Muslim society, decorations were put up on Christmas Eve in the Churches and homes – and you know, we still managed to get everything done!
As I was reflecting on how Christmas preparations get earlier each year, it struck me that at least in this country we have the freedom to decide when and how we celebrate Christmas.
There are so many countries across the world where Christians worship amidst the very real threat of terror attacks. Who can forget the film of Rev Aftab Gohar, born in Peshawar in Pakistan and now a Church of Scotland minister in Grangemouth as he comforted relatives and friends in the aftermath of the bomb attacks in the church in which he was baptised, knowing that his mother, uncle, nieces and nephews and many friends had been killed in the attack.
What will Christmas be like for Syrian Christians? A delegate to the General Assembly a few years ago spoke of the difficulties Christians were facing with churches no longer safe places in which to congregate and services having to be held in secret.
Whenever it is that you will put up your Christmas Tree and decorations this year, spare a thought for those Christians who are denied the right to worship freely. We have the freedom to worship where and when we wish, but let’s not take it for granted. Come along and join in our services – there is something for everyone.