Welcome to St John the Baptist Church in Smalley, Derbyshire.

A CHRISTMAS MESSAGE FROM ANN AND PETER SWALES

Since retiring, Ann and I, have taken time to travel and have tried to visit different places – a city-break to Prague, in March this year, saw us start out in snow and finished the week in bright sunshine – guide book in hand, we found the Charles Bridge, the Castle, Wenceslas Square, trams and then the glorious Opera House where we saw and heard glorious Tosca. As we were both careful with how much we walked, we made the most of our enforced stops ‘to take in the view’, and usually have a cup of tea or coffee!

However, these stops always proved to be educational because we saw things we would have surely missed had we been just walking, determined to reach a set destination on time. We were able to communicate easily with people, despite language differences, and gain access to places in what was once a Communist enclave. Sadly, in our experiences over the years, travelling to the Holy Land has not been so easy – there are many barriers; razor wire, armed soldiers and a massive monstrosity of a wall separating Israel from Palestine. Staggering to feel that we were in the place where Jesus was born, yet we felt we were in an alien place – the border was harsh and difficult to penetrate.

There is always a danger of erecting barriers between Jesus and us
– as if Jesus doesn’t exist, and so we can ignore his teaching;
or we are simply too busy and involved in day to day life that we cannot spare time to stop and contemplate the person we celebrate at Christmas.

Christmas is when Jesus crosses the unseen border from heaven to earth. As those shepherds kept watch over their flocks by night, they were suddenly surrounded by the glory of God as the heavens opened and the angels sang:

“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth, peace, goodwill to all people.”

It was as though the shepherds had crossed that border and could see heaven, because they took time to ‘take in the view’.

So it was that Jesus ‘came down to earth from heaven’ to bring God to the heart of our life… offering to be our guide and to show us how close the border is between the physical and the spiritual; between God and humanity; between heaven and earth.

Advent is when we should slow down, and hear God’s voice through the message of the Prophets, John the Baptist, and those who prepared the way towards our eternal destination, but in the meantime God is always very close, and at the heart of our life.

Greetings at this Christmas time, but try not to let the season exhaust you!
Stop and take in the view towards the eternal border, because
“…. a Saviour has been born to you, he is Christ the Lord”.

Love Ann & Peter

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