For this second Advent Sunday, we are taking the theme of Love
I was thinking about the fact that Christmas is when we remember the birth of Jesus – the Son of God – coming as a vulnerable baby, to grow up as a man, and die on the cross to be our Saviour. And I remembered a story I heard over twenty years ago. We were on holiday in Kettlewell in Yorkshire, staying in a cottage owned by a couple who worked for Scargill House [A nearby Christian Conference Centre] There was a conference ‘in residence’ but John invited us to go up to the Chapel there for the evening service as his guests. Christine was on holiday with us, and she kindly offered to babysit the girls, so that Bob and I could go and worship together.
The Chapel is a beautiful building, about 50 years old now. Here’s a picture of it in the snow last winter
I remember very little of the service. It was a warm August evening, and we were both quite tired, having come away after a week working hard at a hectic Holiday Club. That night, we both found the quiet songs and liturgy …a little soporific at times …
But one thing has stayed with me – the preacher began his sermon by telling a story from ‘Tell my People I love them’, a book by Clifford Hill, an Anglican evangelist
Hill tells the story of a walk on a mountainside in Abelboden, Switzerland. He had been watching the World Cup Men’s Downhill Ski Event and, along with thousands of others, was making his way down the mountain. The pathway turned a sharp bend around the mountain and beyond a low wooden guardrail was a steep slope for about 100 feet to the edge of a precipice and a sheer drop onto rocks. As he turned the corner he heard the piercing scream of a child who had fallen under the rail and was sliding to her death. As he watched, a man leapt over the rail and ran down the slope, just managed to stop before he went over the edge, and then he caught the little girl and carried her back to safety.
As Clifford watched this scene God spoke to him, ‘You saw how her father responded immediately, not hesitating to assess the danger to himself, but flung himself down the mountainside to rescue his child? That is how I love my children….Tell my people I love them.’ The love of Jesus is the most staggering example of the Father’s commitment to us.
Last week, my colleague was showing me the little book that the children were going to be making in their French Lesson – it was a lovely, simple retelling of the Christmas Story [in French, naturally]
It spoke of Marie et Joseph, les anges et les bergers.
She and I were translating it together. On the last page, it said “FIN” - “The End!” cried my friend triumphantly.
“No” I said quietly “I think Bethlehem was just the beginning…”
Love came down at Christmas