Christmas messages comes from the rural deans of Midhurst and Petworth
Father David Twinley, rural dean of Petworth says: “ONE hundred years ago, a long line of trenches stretched from the Belgium coast to the Swiss border.
Far from being all over by Christmas, it was becoming clear that this was just the beginning of a long, bloody war.
On December 23, 1914, Captain Bruce Bairnsfather made his way into the trenches.
His mood was sombre. Although he realised that to all intents and purposes the Christmas festivities were cancelled, the last place he wanted to be was in the trenches.
And yet, writing just two years later he said: “Looking back on it all, I wouldn’t have missed that unique and weird Christmas Day for anything.”
As dawn broke on Christmas Day, the weather was fine; the sky was blue and cloudless while the ground was white and hard.
There was, Bairnsfather says, an ‘indescribable something in the air’, a feeling of peace and goodwill.
Suddenly, the British troops became aware that along the German line, heads were popping up over the parapet.
Then a complete figure jumped into No Man’s Land.
This curious courage soon spread along both sides and in no time at all, sworn enemies were shaking hands, laughing and exchanging gifts.
There, in the most unlikely place of all, peace and goodwill stopped being a hope and became a reality.
It is good to remember that this spontaneous and momentary outbreak of peace happened because of the birth of a child, the Prince of Peace.
At the birth of that holy child, angels sang of peace on earth, but this peace will only come when we accept the invitation and make God’s desire for the world a reality.
With Christmas blessings.
And a message from The Rev Derek Welsman rural dean of Midhurst: “ I RECENTLY attended a multi-faith morning with children from Easebourne Primary school. We had presentations from a sheik, Muslim, Jewish and Christian speaker, and each one explained to the children something of what their particular religion meant to them.
As you can imagine, there was great diversity expressed in cultural differences and religious interpretation.
The most striking thing was not what was different about each religion, but actually what was very much the same. All four speakers talked about compassion, a desire to protect the poor, support the vulnerable and needy – for me, sitting as a priest from one particular church I was really encouraged – I suspect our children grow up watching the news feeling we are all so very different.
Now I am no expert on these things, and I am not so naive to believe that things are just a little more complicated than this, but as a message for this wonderful season, I couldn’t think of anything better – that once you strip away the rhetoric we all desire the same thing – the hungry fed, the weak and vulnerable supported and a warm roof over everyone’s head – as the old saying goes, ‘this is not rocket science!’
Ultimately we all have something different to say and express about how we encounter God. The Christian Church celebrates God becoming human and living our life. But when all is said and done, changing people’s lives is really at the heart of all of it.
Christians, Jews and Muslims all use in their story, the prophets from the time before Jesus.
In Isaiah we find these words ‘come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat!’ – an invitation to all humanity to find life – isn’t that what we all want, isn’t this a season to reflect upon that?
I wish you all a wonderful Christmas and a truly blessed New Year.”