I arrived in Wishaw mid-August 2014 having served the Methodist Church in Lytham St Annes for the past five years. Since then I have been trying to find my way around the area, the transport system, the streets of Lanarkshire and the various groups associated with the Strathclyde Circuit. I say trying to find my way around, because at some point of each week I have found myself ‘lost’; in unfamiliar streets, in unfamiliar towns, on unfamiliar train stations amongst unfamiliar people. (Don’t even mention how lost I feel trying to decipher the phone conversations!) As always, some people have been very helpful in coming to my aid and as always some have not. One morning, as I made my way to Singer on the train, it was suddenly put out of service. A young women student came my aid and shared her taxi with me so that I could get to my destination, all be it a little late. Her act of grace had enabled me to move from a place of vulnerability to a place of safety. Can I hear you asking, ‘What has this got to do with Christmas’?
Two thousand years ago Jesus left the heavens (I guess a very safe and familiar place to him, and probably a bit further than Lytham St Annes, although the serious theologians amongst us may want to rightly debate that statement) to come and offer grace and mercy to the lost.
All of us can find ourselves lost at Christmas: lost in the commercialism, lost in the financial demands, lost in the traditions of the new in-laws, lost in bereavement and certainly lost in ‘time’ without a Tardis.
As Mary and Joseph were just as human as you and I, then we can deduce that they felt somewhat lost in their situation. They too, lost in the new fan dangled commercial Roman registration (and you can guarantee someone somewhere was making a fast buck), lost in financial demands, lost in an ‘in-law’ tradition as one of the shepherds gate crashed the stable claiming to be Joseph’s cousin’s brother-in-law on his mother’s side (perhaps) and lost in an untimely labour. But just as I was aided on my train journey by a young woman’s grace, so Mary and Joseph were offered hospitality by the grace of an inn keeper. It’s hard sometimes to find the small acts of grace amongst the tinsel but I pray that you, in your Christmas, will
find the grace of God in the places where you need it most. May you too, amongst the hype, be like the inn keeper and offer God’s grace to those who come your way.
Deacon Anita Shaw has pastoral responsibility for Netherton and New Stevenston Methodist Churches.