Wednesday, December 25, 2013

How to survive Christmas

So what did you find under the Christmas tree?  Or in that stocking at the foot of the bed?

Great gifts to share.

A couple of weeks ago we had a big long parcel under the Christmas tree.  It was the longest box of Jaffa cakes you have ever seen – and it claimed to be a survival pack for Christmas.

How do you survive Christmas is a question asked in a lot of houses at Christmas!

Actually, surviving Christmas has taken on a bit of a different meaning for us here at Highbury this year.

Back in September our focus for Harvest was on the support of Christians in the Middle East facing persecution.

It was good to receive Christmas greetings from Middle EastConcern

Dear Friends and Partners of MEC

Thank you for your invaluable partnership during 2013.  Together we were able to support Christians in the Middle East and North Africa who are persecuted on account of their faith.  With your support we have monitored, verified and / or assisted in over 380 cases reported to us this year.

Peace and Blessings for Christmas and for the year ahead.

From the Board and Staff of Middle East Concern.

The persecution of Christians is very much in the news this Christmas.   In a moving, short radio broadcast last week William  Dalrymple, the travel writer and historian who ever since writing From the Holy Mountain, 15 years ago, has chronicled the plight of Christian communities around the Middle East suggested that “The Arab spring is rapidly turning into a Christian winter.”

Douglas Alexander, the Shadow Foreign Secretary, was quoted in the paper on Christmas Eve as saying, “Across the world, there will be Christians this week for whom attending a church service this Christmas is not an act of faithful witness, but an act of life-risking bravery.”

It’s not just that the word ‘survival’ takes on a very much more pointed meaning for me this Christmas.  It is also a word I have seen used in a very specific and powerful way in the context of the Syrian Crisis.

Just before Christmas we received a letter from someone who has visited our Ministers conference and was to have joined us for our International Congregational Fellowship Conference last summer … sadly, visa problems meant he could not travel to join us.

It’s one thing seeing news reports of the awful things that have happened there.

Quite another to see pictures taken by someone you know of a church that’s part of our International Congregational Fellowship.

It is gut-wrenching to see those pictures.

You suddenly realise that for many in Syria and in many other places this question of survival is very, very real.

Reading through that letter makes for uncomfortable reading.

How important to support people in Syria.

So we are supporting Embrace the Middle East’s Syria appeal – an age old mission organisation that supports health, disability, educational initiatives in Palestine, Israel, Egypt, Lebanon, Jordan and elsewhere in the Middle East.

Through their partners organisations in Lebanon they are working at putting food parcels together for Refugees in Syria.

This is survival in the raw.

More than 5 million Syrians have fled their homes. At least 700,000 have fled to Lebanon, and more Syrians are now displaced than any other nationality, the UNHCR says. Many have left with nothing but the clothes on their backs and are now taking refuge in temporary accommodation without sanitation, healthcare or food.
Access to emergency aid is severely limited - people are living in areas too dangerous for the large aid agencies to enter.
 But we can reach the unreachable. Working through our Lebanese partners, we are empowering a network of Syrian churches to provide emergency food parcels to the most vulnerable families.
£37.50 will provide a basic food parcel lasting  a family one month.
£9.37 will feed a family for one week – less than the cost of a takeaway.
To gift aid your Christmas / Communion collection please fill in a gift aid envelope and LABEL IT CLEARLY CHRISTMAS COLLECTION
NEWS FLASH: The UN has warned that Syrian refugees are at risk as the worst winter storm in decades sweeps across the Middle East. Blizzards and freezing rain have hit the region, meaning that the 125,000 refugees living in tents will be enduring extremely harsh conditions. (Updated 13 December 2013.)

It is good to give. But true giving is a two way thing.

My eye fell on words in the letter we had received from our friend in Syria

 The source of strength is not in ourselves: it is God himself. We do not survive under this tremendous pressure by focusing on surviving; and neither do we survive under this pressure by focusing on our own perceived strength. No, we survive under this pressure by keeping focused on God: "...who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God." - 2 Corinthians 1:4

They are powerful words that take us right back to where we started.

It is no exaggeration to say that Christmas can become something to survive.

It can be overwhelmed by sadness or sickness, by anxiety and fears for the future, by troubles closer to home.  Sad news, concerning news that someone shares that for some strange, but inescapable reason feels all the worse simply because it’s Christmas.

Let’s come back to these words and take them very much to heart, not least because they are spoken from the heart in the most awful of situations.

Surviving Christmas
The source of strength is not in ourselves:
It is God Himself.
We do not survive
under this tremendous pressure
by focusing on surviving;
And neither do we survive
under this pressure
by focusing on our own perceived strength;
We survive under this pressure
by keeping focused on God
“Who comforts us in all our troubles,
so that we can comfort those in any trouble
with the comfort

we ourselves have received from God.” 

No comments:

So much to pass on at Highbury

If you give a little love you can get a little love of your own

A blessing shared at Highbury

Now and the Future at Highbury

Dreaming Dreams Sharing Visions at Highbury

Dreaming Dreams Sharing Visions

Darkness into Light