Season’s greetings from our local religious leaders

Captain Shaun Baker
Salvation Army Officer

For me, Christmas is and always has been that time of year where family can come together and enjoy each other’s company, eat a nice meal together and swap gifts. It’s never not been a fun time of year for my family. That said, Christmas is not a happy time of year for many. This year some are dealing with the loss of employment, grieving loved ones, dealing with health issues or simply lonely to name a few. While Christmas for me has always been about family, Jesus has never left the centre of why I celebrate. Without Christ, all we have is mas and that’s hardly worth celebrating. I think Jesus would want us, this year especially, to look out for others and support our local communities anyway we can. Let’s bring the hope, peace, love and joy of Christ to others this Christmas.

Murray Smith
Bridges Church

This week I drove past a house that was unlike anything I’ve ever seen. The occupants had gone “all out” with Christmas decorating. All kinds of ‘busyness’ – Santas galore, one even poking his head in and out of a Kiwi out-house (WC)! To the credit of these enthusiasts, there was a nativity scene featuring a little animal stable with a star over it, baby Jesus with Mary, Joseph, and wisemen – all elements conveying the actual Christmas story… the story of a Child born where there was no room for His birth so a stable had to do. Increasingly in our culture there is still scarcely room for Christ the Saviour whose birth Christmas commemorates. Other things have pressed in crowding Him out. That’s a costly omission. This Christmas I hope many will take moments to pause, reflect and place Christ at the centre and find the meaning and purpose He brings to life.

By Alam Topari
Alam is a member of the Muslim community in Cambridge.

If only I could turn the clock back. But I have to accept that this is late December 2020. And it is the case that life can only be learnt ‘backward’, to be lived forward.
During Level 4 Covid Lockdown I rejoiced as I always relish solitude  where I am on my own… but the sense too, of not being alone. I sat many hours outside, night after night watching the stars.
“Well,” I would say to myself, “if Covid 19 wipes many out there’s many more who will be alright.”
While PM Jacinda Ardern called the Christchurch event of March 2019 New Zealand’s darkest moment, I could see clearly its silver lining. It reinforced, cemented and made us who and what we are.
What a blessing to be a Kiwi…The “High Above” created a ‘down to earth bird’ and I’m a privileged member with ngākau, upoko and mana serving as an inspiration for the world to emulate.
Insha Allah – God willing.

Fr Malcolm French
St Andrews, Cambridge

O that birth forever blessèd, when the Virgin, full of grace, by the Holy Ghost conceiving, bore the saviour of our race; and the babe, the world’s redeemer, first revealed his sacred face, evermore and evermore!
We approach the mystery of the Word made flesh, where God, the fullness of God entered into our finite humanity as a little baby, born of a virgin, born in poverty. May God pour his grace into all our hearts, that as we have known of the coming of his Son through the message of angels, so may we come to know, by his Cross, the glory of his resurrection.
Meri Kirihimete! Merry Christmas!

By Julie Guest
St John’s Anglican Church

Do you usually go home for Christmas? Or is yours the home others come back to for the celebration? Is home somewhere you can’t travel to in 2020? Or are you going to be missing loved ones due to travel restrictions?
Home is a powerful word. What first comes to mind when you think of home?  For many there will be ideas of comfort, of family, of safety. But we know that is not the case for far too many. Home is dangerous, a place to escape from not to.
“Come home,” says the Lord to us at Christmas time. Some people think of God as “up there and far away,” but Jesus’ birth brings God down here and with us. God made his home here on earth, among us. We are at home with God as soon as we ask to be. If your home this Christmas feels empty, come home in your heart to God who is waiting for you.

By Pastor Jonathan Ruthven
Cambridge Baptist Church

In the lead up to Christmas many social commentators have been asking how we can wholeheartedly celebrate Christmas when much of the world is still in the grip of Covid-19. While such questions are understandable, they reveal a misunderstanding of why we celebrate Christmas.  Christmas is not so much a celebration of what is now, although I think we have much to celebrate, but a celebration of what is to come. It is a way of remembering that because of Jesus’ coming 2000 years ago we can have genuine confidence that when he returns he will usher in a time of unending peace and joy for those who have placed their trust in him.   That is why throughout history Christians have shown remarkable determination and resilience in celebrating Christmas in times of crisis because when the darkness seems to be getting a foothold we all need to remember that something better is to come.

By Jeff Parker
Pastor, Elim Church Centre

When I think Christmas, I think Hope. Hope has been described as ‘a confident expectation of good’.
Maybe especially in 2020, we all need hope. It makes such a difference to our lives.
The Bible communicates that God has plans to give you hope. Jesus made the way for this hope to be realised. He was born to Mary in Bethlehem that first Christmas morning. As He grew He displayed the character and nature of God in all He did.  At 33 He was crucified and later rose from the dead. The Bible tells us He died to take away the sin of the world. To all who receive Him and Trust Him with their lives, He offers forgiveness for our wrongs, a relationship with Him here and now, and a welcome into His presence when we leave this life. That is hope for the future, and hope for today.

By Charmaine Gillam
Family Church

It is Christmas time again, even though it has been a crazy year.  As we celebrate Christmas with family and friends, around BBQ’s, dinner tables, or at the beach, we remind ourselves of how much we value, love, and appreciate one another. We also remind ourselves of the divine birth of Jesus Christ, our Immanuel (which means “God with us”), our Lord. Thanking God, for loving us as so much, “… that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.” John 3:16,17.
During this Christmas season, we thank Jesus Christ for not only taking our sins away, but for allowing us to become members of His family. We are never alone, for He is always with us.

Jeremy Lind
Raleigh St Christian Centre

On behalf of Raleigh St Christian Centre I would like to wish everyone a lovely Christmas. It has been a challenging year and a common refrain I am hearing from people is that they are very weary. I pray that if you are feeling this way that you will have a time of physical and mental refreshment over the summer. As Christians we remember the Birth of our King Jesus. As someone who experienced the reality of living on this earth he came with an invitation to a disenchanted world: ‘Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.’  May you know the thrill of Hope found in the person of Jesus this festive season.

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