Peter Howell-Jones - Dean of Blackburn December 2019

Post date: Jan 17, 2020 5:10:26 PM

Vicar’s Message

Reconnecting with what is important

As we prepare to enter the Advent season with our eyes focused on the birth of the Christ Child, I can’t help but reflect on how detached our nation has become from the detail of the Christian story that frames much of our festive activity. The cards we send, the carols we sing and the story we tell are all wrapped up in the disturbing reality of a homeless family, who make the difficult decision to become political refugees, driven out by a corrupt and tyrannical regime – sound familiar?

Closer to home, with elections looming and our future relationship with Europe and the rest of the world still to be determined, we find ourselves on the brink of a decision that will reframe the future of our nation. A decision that will in many ways redefine who we are and what we believe as a people. And like the Christmas story, this story has similarly been detached from the detail and reality of what it means to be made in the image of God and part of the wider human family.

Both stories focus on the expulsion of those who are seen to be disruptive influences, agitators or people who have the potential to cause increased political instability. Fear overtakes contentment, rejection overtakes welcome and before we know it, the stories that inform and define who we are and the communities we inhabit, become diminished by a self-absorbed approach to living, that places ‘me’ at the center and everyone else on the margins.

Advent challenges this world view and way of living, inviting us, instead, to respond differently. The prophet Isaiah announces ‘The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who lived in a land of deep darkness, on them light has shined.’ The imagery of darkness and light is an important theme within the Advent story suggesting there is an alternative way of living – a way of living that draws us away from the murky realm of narcissism into the glorious freedom of the Kingdom of God.

There is a wonderful line in J.K. Rowling’s book, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets when Dumbledore says ‘It is our choices, Harry, that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities.’

Living differently is very much about the choices we make, and living differently is never easy. The yearly experience of Advent places before us a fresh opportunity to think again about what is important, what we value and how we intend to live. What choices will you make in your life as Advent leads us into Christmas and we celebrate the birth of the Christ child one again?

Will you let the light of the Kingdom of God shine brightly through your life and be an agent of that transforming love of God flowing through and from the churches across Balderstone, Mellor and Samlesbury? Or will you be consumed by darkness and self-interest, distracted by the worries and cares of our fallen world? The choice is very much in your own hands!

I pray that the light of the glorious gospel of Christ may fill you afresh this Advent and Christmas and that his blessing will be a catalyst for transformation and change in your own life, community and church.

With every blessing

Peter Howell-Jones

Dean of Blackburn