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Living God's Love...

.is an invitation to journey

It's an opportunity to discover new things about God, ourselves and the world, to look with fresh eyes and explore new ways.

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Oh to have been a shepherd!

After weeks of rehearsals the churches, nurseries and primary schools up and down the country will soon be putting on that highlight of the year - the Christmas nativity play. And here at Great. St Mary's the preparation is in full swing! As are the comical anecdotes and illustrations on social media. I must admit that I chuckle when I hear stories like the one about the parent at Christmas, asking the teacher, "So what is the nativity play about?"

Or the one when a father complains, "You do the same story every year. Can't you do a different one for a change?"

Laughing aside, the nativity play can cause all sorts of problems. For a start, you can't get 25 children on stage without causing a rumpus, what with billowing costumes (trip hazard), anxious children, anxious parents, and lines that are often recited from memory. Then there's the unpredictability of young children. These performances are often filled with unintended comedy - which fill the eyes of those in the audience with tears of mirth.

Watching a nativity play will always take me right back to the time of my own primary school's Christmas productions. I expect that they do for many of you also. Did you ever wish that you would get a leading role like Mary, Joseph or even Herod, but end up being the third sheep on the right? Not getting a starring part can be a big disappointment for both children and parents. I reckon that the best character to play in a nativity is a shepherd. Seriously! Think about it. They had the most amazing experience being addressed by an angel.

In the stillness and quiet of the night the shepherds watch their sheep when, without warning, they are confronted by a heavenly visitor, an angel of the Lord. The angel's words to them told them of Jesus and his amazing birth and how they could recognise him in a very crowded town. Then all at once they are surrounded by a whole host of angels. No words in any vocabulary of any language on earth could adequately describe what these shepherds must have seen and felt that night. It is nearly impossible for us to comprehend what transpired. For these simple men perhaps the last thing any of them expected was to be visited by Gabriel himself and given the message their people had been waiting thousands of years to hear.

Now, let's think about the shepherds. We tend to have great respect for shepherds. We picture them as very committed, enduring all weather - storms and howling gales, cold and heat - to be with their sheep. We think of them as caring, dependable and capable people. But when Jesus was born they stood on the bottom rung of the Palestinian social ladder. At that time, sheep farmers were generally seen as having low or little value by other people. So when God chose to send his choir of angels to them it was a startling choice. No one on earth would have picked shepherds living out in the fields to be the first eyewitnesses to the birth of the Son of God.

Oh to have been a shepherd for just that one night. Oh to have been there when Gabriel delivered the message that Christ the Lord.Amazingly, there is no record of what the shepherds did, or said when they found Mary, Joseph and the Babe lying in the manger and this is because it was not important. The shepherds role on that night was to represent the common man to whom Jesus came as Saviour and Lord.What if you had been present that first Christmas night? Would you have ignored Jesus, as most did? Or would you have joined the shepherds in welcoming God's Son into world and into your heart?

Debbie Hore

Assistant Minister

Join us for our Crib Service on Christmas Eve at 4.00pm. Children are welcomed to come dressed as their favourite nativity chracter.

Details of the dates are in the calendar of events ("This Week") here on the website and in Church & Town. If you would like to know more about what is available for children or adults at Great Mary's, then do please contact us. Our contact details are HERE.