I love Titus 3:4 - ‘But when the kindness and love of God our Saviour appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy.’ That is worth celebrating! Christians around the world do so in different ways.
The Russian, Greek and Serbian Orthodox Churches in the East etc exchange gifts after the feast of the Magi, usually on January 7th. The Orthodox begin their 12 days of Christmas with fasting to prepare for the coming One. In Pakistan Christians paint their house walls again with a coloured whitewash and buy each other a new set of clothes. It is great to see many poor families being able to dress up for the Christmas Services where Punjabi psalms and Christian carols are sung with gusto! They also build large wooden-framed Christmas stars with red paper, illuminate them internally and suspend them for Muslims and Christians to see - presenting a witness to their wider community.
There are of course those who simply take on Western cultural practices. A friend told about a Kenyan dressed up in a Santa’s outfit outside a store in El Doret with Jingle Bells playing. December is particularly hot at that time of year in Kenya! Simon Clift has celebrated with our diocesan companion link in Holy Cross Cathedral singing ‘In The Bleak Midwinter’ in a temperature of 35 degrees centigrade! I like the laid-back Australians who enjoy their Christmas BBQ feast on the beach
At Christmas we received the greatest gift of all as Christ is born for each one of us. Let us be a gift to other people this Christmas by particularly inviting the lonely, neglected and poor to His feast – that is a tradition worth practising!
Thirty-five people attended the day led by John and Gillian Ryeland from the Christian Healing Mission (CHM). The day was a mixture of hearing about ‘Encounter Prayer’, seeing it demonstrated, experiencing it for ourselves and practising it with each other. We learned that there are three aspects: resting on the Father’s love; finding the presence of Jesus, and inviting the presence of the Holy Spirit.
John demonstrated this on a volunteer, emphasising that when we come into the Father’s presence we stand on His love and not on guilt, condemnation and a sense of worthlessness (which is often our default mindset). After some moments of reminding the person how much God loves them, John asked ‘Where is Jesus for you right now?’ and, after their response, he continued with ‘What would you want to say to Him?’ He then invited the Holy Spirit to come and make real for them any revelation they had received.
Encounter Prayer is an approach that lets each person come to God and talk to Him themselves. Each person matters. We all carry something of the presence of God. God may do things in an unexpected way. Don’t be afraid of silence! Allow space to explore what is happening with the person who is being prayed for. If the answer to ‘Where is Jesus in this?’ is negative that is ok because God wants reality and we have to start from where we are. It is our ongoing relationship with God that brings the healing.
From the ‘buzz’ in the room at the end of the day it seemed that people were refreshed and encouraged by all that had happened.
For more info about CHM see https:/www.healingmission.org