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Minister's message - February

Dear Friends

As I write this letter, we have been completing the final stages of clearing away Christmas. Every year, after we put the boxes of decorations up into the roof, there are always odd items to be discovered that have been left out. No doubt at some point in the coming weeks I will feel the sharp pain of a stray pine needle, as it finds its way from the carpet into my foot - it usually happens. It is as if the last remnants of the Christmas celebration are still with us.

The month of February offers us a pause in our Christian journey, as we leave the story of Christmas behind and wait for the Easter story to unfold. For some Christian traditions, the month begins with the feast of Candlemas (2 February) which focuses on the dedication of the infant Christ in the temple, in readiness for what lies ahead (Luke 2:22-38). It is a story of celebration and welcome, as expressed by Anna, but also a story with an edge, shown in Simeon's prophecy about Jesus and Mary, with its reference to division and hurt. Even before the celebrations have wholly ended, there is a note of foreboding.

You might find it helpful to see this month of February, with its Candlemas focus, as a turning point - from looking back one final time towards Christmas, we now turn to look at the cross, as Lent and Holy Week beckon. Candlemas reminds us that we cannot have Christmas on its own; only as a prelude to the whole of the Gospel story. And so, in the words of the hymn, we are encouraged to make the links between Christmas and Easter:

'Trace we the babe, who has retrieved our love,
From his poor manger to the bitter cross'

The Christ who shares our human birth is the one and the same Christ who shares our human death. The helplessness of a tiny child becomes the helplessness of a mature man. Symbolically, the wood of the manger is the wood of the cross. Our Christian task is to follow faithfully from Christmas to Easter, and to make the connection between the two.

Yet it is so easy not to make the connection. How many celebrate the birth of the child in the manger, but then leave him there. those who don't ask what happens next, or what the child did when he grew up. There are some people who leave their Christmas decorations up longer than everybody else, because they do not like to take them down - they are like someone who is not prepered to move on with the story. But we are called not only to keep the celebration, but also to share in the cost of a gospel anchored in the needs and hurts of this world. For this is good news of salvation and a gospel for all people everywhere!

Phil Drake

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