I have had a glorious two weeks and have so many good things to lock away in the memory bank. Some wonderful Welsh Carol Services of varying tastes and talents: my favourite always is in a very small church in the garden of some dear friends. Somehow it, the church, seems to expand, adorned in its Christmas finery to seat a good number of people, and I am sure that that the Service is just what God likes, as they always manage to blend simplicity with a certain sophistication – truth and beauty. When the door opened in the middle of the Service I wondered whether Jesus was going to come in, but He was certainly there in the Spirit, and I felt truly blessed and I am sure that others did too.
Then we had four very happy days of family Yuletide, orchestrated serenely by my daughter-in-law who coped with us all including five teenaged grandchildren, and never a cross word. A great deal of food and laughter and fresh air and fun, including a trip to see the film Paddington; what joy to have something that all ages thoroughly enjoyed.
Then a long drive to Devon where I spent an equally happy couple of days with more family, including four other grandchildren, so it has been a very special time. I am now back in my winter home, picking up the threads and rather enjoying a few days peace and quiet, giving in to a cough and cold, which has allowed me to go through my Christmas card list which normally gets sidelined. Much as I have enjoyed the past fortnight, it is a relief to get back into some kind of routine, and dare I say it, a step back into things spiritual. In spite of the wonder of the Yuletide message it seems that the parties and festivities crowd out any spiritual routine I try to follow which I hasten to add is never adequate.
At supper with a friend last evening she gave me the excellent article by Austen Ivereigh about Pope Francis which has given me enormous hope and encouragement. I hope I shall not be in breach of copyright if I quote some of the things he says, because I do feel that it is worthy of note. Personally I am of the opinion that we are incredibly blessed in these times to have a remarkable Monarch who walks with the Lord, an Archbishop of Canterbury who has a real grasp of worldly matters but is such a truly spiritual man, and not least this amazing Pope in Rome.
Surely anyone who listened to the Queen’s Christmas broadcast must have been struck by her plea for reconciliation; Ivereigh speaks of the Pope’s yearning for the separation of Christians to end, how a “miracle of unity” – the work of the Holy Spirit – had begun …. When we try to create unity through our own human designs, he warns, we end up with uniformity and homogenisation….which leads to schism … yet if we let ourselves by led by the Spirit, richness, variety and diversity will never create conflict, because the Spirit spurs us to experience variety in the communion of the Church. Later he says that building bridges of trust and reciprocity that open up new spaces for God to act, and that their shared baptism, and openness to the Holy Spirit, are enough; that they shouldn’t wait for theologians to agree before acting and witnessing.
I hope we can hear the people say Amen. Surely reconciliation and unity are the best of bedfellows.
The Pope told an audience in St. Peter’s Square in May that Peace is not mass produced, but handcrafted by individual artisans. “That is Pope Francis’ own genius”, suggests Ivereigh: “building relationships of trust that create spaces for the Holy Spirit to break through what seems humanly impossible”.
If anyone can think of a better New Year message, please let me know.