The Annunciation Trust

to help you discover the God you already know

Month: January 2018

Roy’s Christmas Reflection

I first met Roy Gregory many years ago as a fellow member of the ‘Soul Space’ team offering spiritual direction at Greenbelt.  We got on well from the off, despite supporting rival football teams, and our friendship has blossomed over the intervening years. It was Roy who one day at Greenbelt was kind enough to tell me that he thought it was a pity that ‘Approaches to Prayer’, a book I’d helped put together, was now out of print.  ‘Wouldn’t it be a good idea to make it available on-line?’  he asked.  I thought that was a lovely idea but I had neither the time or the skill to make that possible, and couldn’t see how it might be achieved. ‘Leave it with me’ said Roy.

As well as being the leader of a lively free evangelical church in St Albans, Roy also lectured in engineering at Hatfield University, where he had a friend who was skilled in web design. This friend said that he’d willingly put the book online and said what he would charge to do so. When Roy relayed this back to me I said that I couldn’t afford that. Roy went back to his friend, who was an atheist, and told him what I’d said, and was stunned to hear his friend say that his wife, a Christian, had told him that as the book was about prayer, he ought to do the work for nothing, and so he would.  Cheekily I then asked if he might be willing to create an Annunciation Trust web-site, which would include the book, but would also allow us to put other things on it as well? Again, he agreed, and that is how this web-site came to be.

Roy became a much loved and valued member of the group of us who work under the umbrella of The Annunciation Trust and looked after the web-site once it was up and running, and so our friendship continued on after we had each left Soul Space.  Five years ago Roy suffered a stroke, and lost the use of his left side, but with the devoted care of Christine his wife, their family and friends, and a range of skilled professionals, he has learnt to adapt and manage pretty well, although mostly confined to a wheel-chair. When I’m down in London from Worcestershire where we live, I go and visit him and Christine and we continue the stimulating conversations we began together many years ago.

All of this is by way of a very long preamble to a letter I received today, dictated by Roy and written by Christine, enclosing a ‘Christmas Reflection’ that Roy was ‘given’ this Christmas, and which with his permission I’d like to share with you here:

 

Christmas Reflection

 

God sent down His Angels to Earth

To show how much His creatures are worth.

 

He came to them and shook them to the core

And changed their life for evermore.

 

All sorts of people in the midst of life,

Shepherds and kings and a carpenter’s wife.

 

The Angel said to Mary

“I am sorry this is scary”

You will have a baby one day

In a very different way”.

 

Mary was humbly obedient

Although it was inconvenient.

 

The shepherds saw Angels in the sky

It changed them in a blink of an eye.

 

Of this they had no choosing

Unkind friends said they’d been boozing.

 

The star led the kings and they were able

To find the Baby in the stable.

 

In awe they put aside their self-promotion

And fell on their knees in humble devotion.

 

These events people know they cannot prove

By faith they can see God was on the move.

In praise of Christmas cards

We shall soon be taking down out Christmas cards.  I send a lot of Christmas cards, and we receive a lot too.  We noticed this year that most of the cards we received and just about all the cards we sent had an explicitly Biblical reference.  Visiting other homes during the season and seeing other peoples’ cards we became aware that our experience is untypical: the majority of Christmas cards make no reference to the Biblical story.  Some of our cards contained circular letters, and some friends sent circular letters by email explaining that they were not sending cards this Christmas but were giving a donation to charity instead. I confess that I only skim read circular letters.  I also confess that I shall feel sad to be taking our Christmas cards down, our home will seem empty without them.

 

I remember being very moved by all the cards wishing me well that I received around the time of my cancer operation and as I was beginning my course of chemotherapy, getting on for two years ago. They were, for me, powerful symbols of the web of love and prayer with which I was being held. There were eventually too many for them all to be displayed at once, so like a large art gallery I began to rotate them, with some of display and others temporarily in store.  Together they incarnated the love of God which was holding me through a difficult time.

 

I recently read somewhere that a friendship between two people who have a shared faith and who take prayer seriously is much stronger and deeper than one between two people who don’t, and I sense that there is truth in that.

 

Christmas cards that remind us of the Christmas story are very important. The sending of them is a reminder of a shared faith which deepens the friendship between sender and receiver, it anchors that friendship within the loving activity of a Love greater than ours, and it celebrates and witnesses to that loving activity.  I know that they are not cheap to buy and that posting them in any number is a costly business, but faith is sometimes a costly business, and the sharing of it with friends to our mutual benefit, and the witnessing of it to others, is always likely to come at some cost.  I don’t see it as an alternative to charitable giving at Christmas. Its not an ‘either or’ but a ‘both and’.  If we seriously want to keep Christmas as Christ’s birthday, and to avoid it becoming overwhelmingly  secularised, then the sending of Christmas cards produced by a charity of our choice, that tell the Christmas story, with a ‘religious’ stamp on the envelope, is vitally important.

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