Uncertainty is something we can all relate to, but living well includes the acceptance that we live momentarily. Not just in the sense that life can feel fleeting, but in the sense that all we ever really know for sure is what we experience now, in the moment. Yesterday is a memory that begins to change from the moment it ends, and tomorrow is only ever imagined and hoped for. This moment, the one we live in now, the one that includes you reading this, is all we ever experience. This moment is life, the rest is uncertain, so live it.
Uncertainty is the experience of realising that tomorrow will be different from today, and we have no way of knowing how different it will be.
Sadly, in the last few years the word ‘uncertainty’ has been synonymous with Britain’s proposed exit from EU. The question over how much ‘uncertainty’ continues to impact the UK economy has been reported in the news on an almost daily basis. Journalists, politicians, business leaders, financial advisors, professors, and local government leaders have all had their say over what it will mean. Despite their collective wisdom we are still left with… yes you guessed it, uncertainty. What will it mean? How will it affect us? What will it do to the economy, how will it affect our relationship with the other EU states, what will it create, or what will it destroy in the UK? So many questions. It seems the only thing we can be certain of is that it will definitely be different.
In medieval times cartographers used to write the words ‘beyond ‘ere be dragons’ at the edge of their maps denoting the threshold of unexplored lands and seas. Its effect was to ward off travellers and seafarers from the unknown. Don’t go there!
You may, like me, wish we had never even considered leaving the EU in the first place. Nevertheless, the fact remains, there is still a great deal of uncertainty.
You might be surprised to hear that for Christians this social anxiety about the future is not felt any less than it would do for anyone else. If anything, the concern is felt more acutely, since the Christian duty is to care more intently for the wellbeing of people and the common good. Christians care about the same things as others do, especially when it comes to things like Brexit. Christians worry about the same things, fear the same things, get angry about the same things, and celebrate the same things as most other people.
However, there is a profound and important difference. Christians have a special ‘hope’ that shapes how we respond to uncertainty. Not knowing what tomorrow will bring is a necessary part of the Christian life. Christians aren’t any more certain about what tomorrow looks like than anyone else. But Christians do find their hope in the one that is. Jesus said, “I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33). Christian hope originates in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, which is profoundly life changing for anyone who accepts him. But faith in Jesus, and our commitment to follow him doesn’t mean that we can kick back and enjoy the ride and not care about tomorrow. In fact, it is quite the opposite.
It is because of what Jesus has done for us that we find we can’t sit back. On the contrary, we are compelled to step out in faith, to go out in to the world in order to see it transformed.
Christians have a special ‘hope’ that shapes how we respond to the concerns of today and tomorrow. By reading the bible we are reminded that the author of time, who became human, who was born of Mary in Bethlehem, is with us. And because of this, no matter what we face in life we do not face it alone (Matthew 28:20 – Jesus saying “And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age."). One of the greatest and most important truths of the Christian faith is written in the letter to the Romans by the Apostle Paul, (Romans 8:38-39) "For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord."
We might want to add nor ‘leave’ nor ‘remain’ can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. The truth that nothing can separate us from the love of God is at heart of our Christian hope, and it is what energises the Church to keep on. So, in this season of uncertainty I want to encourage you to consider Jesus and the hope that comes from knowing him. I want to encourage you to believe wholeheartedly that our heavenly Father, who can see everything about tomorrow, and the next, will always love you and will always be with you.
Jeremiah 29:11 says “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.”
May the blessing of God be with you this month and always.
Revd Jeremy Putnam
You may not know that the very first Black Friday was Nov 18th 1910, and it had nothing to do with shopping. On this day 300 women marched to the Houses of Parliament as part of their campaign to secure voting rights for women. The day earned its name from the violence meted out to protesters, some of it sexual, by the Metropolitan Police and male bystanders. Thanks to the courageous perseverance of these suffragette women, and even earlier the commitment of Chartism for the working class, there is now equality in voting. We still have a way to go though, inequality is still very present in our society.
You may be wondering why I am talking about Black Friday when the rest of the Church is probably talking about Advent & Christmas. Inequality was certainly very real at the time of Jesus’ birth. Consider Mary the mother of Jesus. Mary had no status, or societal influence. Her wealth was next to nothing, and she had no real material value that would’ve caused people to stand up and take notice. And yet because of this, God chooses Mary. In the eyes of the world she had nothing to give and yet Gabriel was sent to her with some extraordinary news. Mary was a young girl in a society that valued men and maturity; she was lowly and poor as her canticle of praise mentions. In other words, Mary was not someone who was favoured in the world, but Christians learn from the Gospels that she was indeed honoured in the eyes of God, she was in fact blessed because of her poverty.
It’s important to know that Mary’s status before God would have undoubtedly brought her shame. In her day, an unmarried woman expecting a child was cause for disgrace. It broke every social and familial law of acceptability. Not only would her condition bring shame on the family, but to try and explain it was somehow a blessing from God, that conception was by account of a visit from God’s messenger, well, this would have been blasphemy of the highest order. Nevertheless, she trusts God. Mary’s part in the Good News and the Incarnation is so inspiring, so extraordinary, and so liberating for us because of her faith.
Mary was the first champion of the Christian faith, showing such courage despite facing the possibility of social darkness, disgrace, shame and violence. Because of her faith the Word of God came into the world. To the world around her Mary had nothing to give. To us, as Christians, we learn that Mary had everything to give, and held nothing back. Her faith inspires us today.
And so, this Christmas I hope like Mary, you know the grace to trust God completely. There are many challenges still facing our society with regards to freedom and equality, and we do need boldness and faith to survive them and to challenge them. But my prayer this Advent and Christmas time is that we learn how loved we are by God through the inspiring faith and motherhood of Mary, and together make the changes God longs to see.
May God bless you and keep you this Christmastide.
Revd Jeremy Putnam.
Advent is here and Christmas is just around the corner. Our shops have been displaying Christmas merchandise and promotions for what seems like ages. Carols and Christmas songs have been playing over the instore Muzak systems, children have been preparing for nativity performances, and parent and grandparents have been stocking up on the perfect Christmas gifts for months. If it weren’t for the accuracy of our calendars, we’d be forgiven for thinking that Christmas had already arrived. The church doesn’t help either – we’re advertising our Christmas services on the next page! We also make the mistake of talking about Advent and Christmas in the same breath – look again for a good example on the next page. But here’s the rub – Advent, although connected, is not actually the lead up to Christmas, Christmas is the lead up to Advent. When Advent is done well the Church invites the world to consider its pain and sorrow – with one finger pointing toward Jesus as the peacemaker and judge. As I’m sure many will know Advent is about when the world is finally put right, when Jesus will come again as Judge to fulfil what he has already begun, to bring justice, fairness, equality, peace and a new life for all.
Advent and Christmas nowadays feels rather marketed. And I’ve found myself getting more and more frustrated that the message is lost in amongst the sentimental and contrived TV ads and well-dressed garden centres. Now before you say – oh come on Jeremy get with the Christmas Spirit! I do.. I really do. Like many of us, I get caught up in the whole wonderful delight of the Christmas season. I love the music, the John Lewis and M&S adverts, I love driving passed houses lit up with a thousand Christmas lights, and seeing the lights come on in Boscawen Street. It is marvellous. But there is always a part of me that keeps in mind what Christmas, and for that matter, what Advent is really about… it is about the broken-hearted, the rejected, the forgotten, the lonely, the refugee, the poor, the homeless, the mourning, and the persecuted – all of these are represented in the person of Jesus. Unfortunately, Christmas has become something that only the privilege celebrate, but the story of Christmas and the promise of Advent is a promise for everyone not just a few.
A grandfather found his grandson, jumping up and down in his playpen, crying at the top of his voice. When Johnnie saw his grandfather, he reached up his little chubby hands and said, “Out, Gramp, out.” It was only natural for the Grandfather to reach down to lift the little fellow out of his predicament; but as he did, the mother of the child stepped up and said, “No, Johnnie, you are being punished, so you must stay in.” The grandfather was at a loss to know what to do. The child’s tears and chubby hands reached deep into his heart, but the mother’s firmness in correcting her son for misbehaviour must not be lightly taken. Here was a problem of love versus law, but love found a way. The grandfather could not take the youngster out of the playpen, so he crawled in with him.
We celebrate Christmas, and the promise of Advent so that we can look back and look forward to the moment when Jesus crawls into the play pen so the world can know the love of God. I pray that your Advent and Christmas will be filled with joy, love and peace, and that you truly know the love of God. Revd Jeremy Putnam
A collection of thoughts and reflections from the people of All Saints.