The Revd Norman A. Grigg

Monday, December 24, 2007
Chairman and General Superintendent of The Methodist Church, The Gambia

It is my privilege and joy to bring you Christmas greetings on behalf of the Methodist Church in The Gambia – and I pray that the peace, love and joy, which this season brings, may be known to everyone in our hearts, in our lives and in our world.

Christmas will be celebrated throughout the world and billions of people will be together with families and friends and enjoying good food and good company on what will be a holiday for most of them. After all, we shall be celebrating a birthday - a birthday which has a worldwide significance.

Christmas brings a message of God’s love for the world

One of the best known verses in the Bible is found in John’s Gospel, chapter three and verse 16 – where it says: ‘For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son, that whosoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life’.

It is a text that is taught to children and recited by all Christians at some time – because it summarizes a central theme of the Christian faith and is the central reason for the celebration of Christmas. The four words ‘God sent his son’ sum up the story of the birth of a baby in a stable at Bethlehem, who – so Christians believe – was the Son of God - sent by God - and who showed God’s love in his life and ministry.

The reason – according to the Scripture verse – was that ‘God so loved the world’ – and you will notice that it doesn’t say he loved just ‘the good things’ or ‘the good people’ or ‘the religious people’ of the world – it says the world, without any distinction or any exclusion – and that means the whole creation, the good and the bad parts, the rich and the poor, and all people regardless of gender, race, religion or creed. God loved his whole creation.

We are fortunate to live in a peaceful country where everyone can follow their own faith without fear or favour – yet we do not have to look very far to know that this is not the case in every nation – in fact there is so much conflict, so many wars, and so many angry people that some may question how we can talk about peace and joy and love in the world as we know it. Some may even ask ‘Does God still loves the world as much as He did in the days of the writer of the Gospel’?

Christmas bring us a message that God continues to love

How can He love a world where there is obvious injustice and oppression, where there are countless examples of the violation of human rights, where there are conflicts and divisions that separate families and friends, and a multitude of hardships and disasters, which make people’s lives unbearable? How can we speak of love, peace and joy when millions around the world do not experience liberty and peace?

All of these are legitimate questions – yet, the story of Christmas remains a story of God’s love in the world – a story of his intervention in the heartbreaking situations that we can all too often see and sometimes experience. – breaking through the barriers that we erect and demonstrating that God cares and God acts and brings hope and joy and light – where we can only see despair, misery and darkness.

He loved the world so much that ‘the Word became flesh and dwelt among us’ and if we look with the eyes of faith we can ‘behold His glory’ – yes, even in the world of today.

When Jesus was born it was at a time when the Romans occupied Palestine and the Jewish nation had to live with the restrictions that the occupation made on their lives. There were the same human and natural disasters as we experience today yet, it was in

Christmas demonstrates the love of a father

I heard of a mother who was told off by a friend of hers for always providing a home for one of her sons, even though that son was always getting into trouble – he’d been in prison twice, he had stolen from his own family members – he had never been able to find a job and he was always borrowing money and never paying it back – the friend said to his mother ‘I don’t know why you keep letting him back into your home. If he was my son, I would have thrown him out of the house long ago and let him find his own way in life’. ‘But you don’t understand’ said the mother ‘he’s NOT your son – he’s my son and I will always love him and my home will always be his home’.

Now maybe there are times when a mother’s love won’t re-act like that but we also know, from our own experience, that when a parent loves a child that is a love that doesn’t change just because the child doesn’t turn out to be perfect.

When we talk of God we call him Father – and we call him a God of perfect love – so we can be sure that His love for his world and for us as his children – continues in spite of the way we have not loved him as we should – and his love for the world has not diminished from the moment of creation.

That is an essential part of the Christmas message. The demonstration of God’s continuing love for the world brings light into darkness and … when we see evil being done, Christmas allows us to believe in the goodness which all men and women are capable of doing,

… when we see people hating their fellow human beings, Christmas allows us to believe in the ultimate power of love and forgiveness,

…. when we see war, violence and terror, Christmas allows us to believe in the power of peace and non-violence.

So today I bring you the season’s greetings and pray that the joy, peace and love that is the message of Christmas may be with you and remain with you throughout the coming year.

Author: DO