As we approach the season of ‘peace and goodwill to all’, I’m conscious that this time of year can be the very opposite. The truth is that Christmas can be and very often is a stressful time for many people. There are all the materialistic pressures, especially for families with children, and the stress of preparations - decorating, presents to buy, cards to write, food to buy and prepare and guests to entertain. Family relationships become strained under the weight of expectations and Christmas is notorious for family rows. Christmas time can bring an experience of increased loneliness and isolation for many people especially those missing a loved one or struggling to come to terms with a broken relationship. Ironically whilst we are all wishing each other a peaceful time what many experience is the opposite. Often the glitter and tinsel and excesses of food and drink mask much hidden pain.
Read more: Peace and Goodwill to All
There are many people who used to belong to church but for one reason or another stopped being involved. Perhaps life became very busy with the demands of work or family. Perhaps the church wasn’t welcoming to children or perhaps the services seemed meaningless and boring.
Read more: Pastoral Letter
When Mum said we’d have to have our planned outdoor meal indoors as it looked like rain, Dad said, not to worry, it was a ‘moveable feast’! So I grew up thinking that a moveable feast was a meal you could take with you like a picnic.
In fact the phrase moveable feast comes from the Christian tradition where some festivals in the Christian year are not fixed, like Christmas, but have a different date each year, like Easter. I’ve often been asked why the date of Easter changes but the day is always the same – Sunday.
Read more: April Pastoral Letter
This year marks the 400th anniversary of the King James Version of the Bible. It may not have been the first translation of the Bible into English, nor even the most accurate, but it has been the most influential and well-loved version of the Bible in the English-speaking world.
It also gave us many phrases which are so well used that most people today don’t even realise that they are from the Bible like ‘the powers that be’ or a ‘good Samaritan’ or ‘turn the other cheek’.
King James’ instructions to scholars to translate the Bible four hundred years ago inspired subsequent generations to interpret it again and again into contemporary English, allowing the words and teaching of Jesus to endure.
Biblical beliefs and Christian ideas influenced the development of our society – and whatever our views about colonialism, these beliefs and ideas went out across the world along with copies of the King James Bible. It truly was a book that changed the world.
And the Bible, the ‘Word of God’, is still a book that changes lives. It changed my life as I met God through its stories, letters, poetry, revelations and prophetic words. It changes my life daily if I let the word ‘dwell in me richly’, as St Paul puts it in his letter to Christians in the church of Colossae.
This year has been designated the ‘Year of the Bible’ and many events are being organised by churches and across the country to celebrate and commemorate. I’m inviting everyone from the church or parish to send me three of your favourite Bible verses, from any version of the Bible, and later on this year, we’ll hold a ‘Bible Celebration’ in which we announce the ten most popular verses. Ask your friends and family members for their choices too. You can hand them into church or put them in the vicarage letterbox or by posting them in a comment below.
I look forward to hearing from you!