Christmas Letter from a Reader

Mapperley, December 1998

Andrew WallisI have a little dog which I know some of St Peter’s have met. He’s a miniature Schnautzer called Maxwell and a real delight to have around. One of the pleasures of having a dog is that one has to exercise him regularly and the last run of the day for me is perhaps the best. It’s an opportunity to consider the day that has been and reflect on the experiences that have come my way.

On an evening in the middle of November I was out walking Maxwell at about 11.15pm and as it was a clear night I was gazing skyward admiring the vastness of space and the glory of the stars. To my surprise a shooting star sped across the sky seemingly from nowhere and in a split second disappeared into nothingness. I stood for a moment transfixed just in case there was to be a repeat performance but alas there was not. I have seen shooting stars in the past whilst on holiday in Turkey, but had only rarely seen them in England and then only in the countryside on a clear night without the glow of street lights to obscure the view. It was a couple of days later that I heard Patrick Moore on TV speaking about a large meteor hurtling through space and the spectacular light show that some could expect to see as its debris entered the earth’s atmosphere in the early hours of 18th November. Sadly the night sky was not clear enough in the UK on that occasion though in Japan the sight was truly splendid. I wondered if my sighting was anything to do with this?

But the night sky alone is a wonderful and awesome sight, a sight that speaks to me of majesty and stability - some things seem not to change. Our own earth of course has undergone enormous change in its recent history, due to industrialisation and our use of the earth’s resources, and we are having to deal with extreme weather conditions and prepare for a rise in the level of the oceans due to the melting of the polar ice-caps as a result. Change seems to be everywhere… including our understanding of Christmas!

For increasing numbers of people Christmas is void of any spiritual significance, it’s simply a time for parties, merrymaking and time off from work. As the Christmas lights were switched on in Birmingham last month controversy flared up over the title ‘Winterval’ given to the events in the city usually associated with Christmas.

It’s interesting that the sky features in the Christmas story, that it was a star that led the magi to the place where Jesus was born. The sky with its stability and unaltered glory could be relied upon to lead those who seek after truth, to find truth - the unchanging heavens above become the vehicle to direct them to the unchanging truth in their midst. Jesus, the image of the unseen God, had come among us - Emmanuel, God with us, living as one of us and sharing our times and experiences. This is of course the point and the meaning of Christmas - it is indeed a cause for celebration and partying and without this unchangeable fact at the centre of our celebration, our merrymaking will be incomplete. And this fact, this truth is one that whilst overlooked by some and forgotten by others, is unaltered and unchanging. It is as reliable and stable as the star spangled sky that graces our sight on a clear night.

Jesus has come among us to reveal God to us and to restore the dignity of our humanity. His birth in Bethlehem speaks to us of his presence in our lives, and assures us that God is interested and involved in our lives, and is a reality that can be tapped into as we journey on life’s pilgrimage and the road to our fulfilment.

Andrew Wallis
St Peter's Church, Nottingham
Last revised 29th November 1998