Christmas 2005

One year ago yesterday I lay in bed wondering if I would be in this pulpit this evening I did really want to but had no idea if I would be.

I had no idea that it would snow that night & when it did a childlike delight filled my imagination.

I also had no idea that by morning the next day Boxing Day over 325, 000 people would have been drowned by a Tsunami and millions left homeless thousands of parents clawing through mud to find their children. As I listened to the news each following day it seemed that each hour brought more horrific news of death on a scale beyond my experience. The tropical holiday paradises where third world poverty meets first world wealth were suddenly united in a disaster of a Biblical scale.

I soon heard the cries, . but only from news reporters, mainly from those who were not directly effected, their cry against God for causing this natural disaster, the questions of why does a God of love allow the innocent to die, allow so many to be made homeless and crippled.( it will be on TV Christmas Day Where was God 7.50. Channel 4)

My simple answer moves from recognising that the universe is so unbelievable large and I in comparison, so infinitesimally small understood that only a creator God could possible recognise me as an individually whom he knows by name.

The death of 100,000 people is to God ONE individual death by 100,000 times

At that particular stage I wondered what those reporters would think of me as I wasn't raging against God. Perhaps I had more of a right to rage against God, after all I had not chosen at any level to put myself at risk.

So many times, it seems to me that we make poor choices, sometimes out of greed, some times out of tradition and perceived necessity and when disaster strikes look to blame someone else, often God. Now I have no theological issue about blaming God, the Bible is full of events where good people have blamed God, and yet God still remains faithful to those who choose to place their trust in Him. And that is where I was and am. I was given an amazing confidence in God the creator of this world. I know He would never let me done, he would supply my every need, and He would give me a peace that did surpass every expectation. He just gave it to me, unexpected, wonderful.

It was a God given choice I had accepted.

I am still a bit annoyed at those who so quickly blamed the God in whom they did not believe for choices they made. Why for instance did 'they' build a tourist attraction so close to the sea, which they knew, almost forever that it was dangerous? Public records show that there have been 10 Tsunami's in the in the area in past years.

Why do advanced first world countries build cities on natural fault lines?

I'm surprised they do not build ski resorts on known avalanche paths, or decide to build an enormous Oil Deposit in the midst of a housing estate and school, hoping that they will not suddenly blow up.

I guess we do not create slag heaps to tower above schools any more, but that may be because there are no more coal pits in Wales .

But I guess we will still give our children mobile phones with all the risks involved with that.

It was therefore a delight to think of better things, the annual Christmas plays at school, with all the first timers playing the roles of sheep, angels, stars looking forward to the 6 th year when one of them would play Mary, or the good angel, or one of the star parts to the sheer delight of parents and grandparents to be recorded for ever on disc.

But low and behold if the same grumpies did not complain about Christmas being marginalized, and materialised how 'we' were responsible for another generation growing up missing the 'real point of Christmas' too much tinsel encouraging children to believe that the Christmas story is a fable, just for children and not attached to any reality.

I love the God bit of Christmas and I love the materialism, simple like all the original disciples and like them I live in a pluralistic society.

Rev. Colin Morris brilliantly expressed my thoughts through the words of a small child as follows; "Christmas is a time for children because the baby Jesus was a child. So were his mum and dad.

Mary was 10 when she had her baby, because this is how old Cheryl Foster is and Joseph was 11 like Ravinder Singh .

Joseph was not the real daddy of Jesus. The real daddy was Mr Bibby , our school caretaker who is also Father Christmas.

Mary was pregnant, but stayed very thin, unlike my mum when she was having my sister Sandra . Mary always wore a blue nightie. And Joseph wore a dressing gown like Ravinder Singh's dad.

Mary and Joseph had to travel from the back of school hall to Bethlehem on a donkey called Daryl , after Mr Bibby the caretaker.

Caesar Augustus wanted the whole world to be taxed. That is why everybody went to Bethlehem and it was so crowded. People had even come from Singapore , China and Australia because there is no snow there. Mary decided she was going to have a baby right away in the snow, because there was no room at the inn. The innkeeper was Lo, because Joseph said to him. "Lo. my wife is great with child" Lo took Mary and Joseph to a dirty cowshed. It was full of steam and smells from the pigs and cows and hens who had gathered together for the census.

Mary had her baby in front of everbody. When he arrived everybody realised that she was dressed in blue because she knew it was going to be a boy. She called him Jesus and immediately he sat up and pointed to the roof where there was a draught. Some shepherds came to see the baby. They had been told by angels to bring him a lamb. Joseph put it in the manger beside the baby Jesus.

The shepherds got in just before the three wise men who wore Mrs Crotty's silk scarves after they promised not to wipe their noses on them.

The wise men had gifts for the baby - a big stone covered in gold paper, a perfume bottle full of red stuff and incense sticks. Joseph put these in the manger next to the lamb and baby Jesus.

Then the shepherds and the wise men knelt down in front of the baby Jesus and sang Jingle bells. Then Mr Bibby came in dressed as Father Christmas, but Mrs Phillips shouted at him because it was not time yet.

If you find this funny, Happy Christmas. If you're offended, then stop asking children to do the nativity play. It's really a story for adults.

If you don't like the Christmas tinsel and the sales, if you cannot allow your Christianity to mould the society in which you live, then don't go to the sales, don't decorate your homes and don't go to the school Christmas plays .

However, I'm so very pleased to see you all here this evening and I am so pleased to be here.

A very Happy Christmas to you all


Rick Gates