Just a stranger on the bus
It’s one of the most astonishing and distinctive features of the Christian faith in general and the Christmas story in particular. Worship tends toward the celebrity, the bright lights, the splendour of wealth and beauty. But in the nativity we stoop in obscure gloom and venerate the humility of the infant.
The sheer mortality and commonness in which the God of heaven comes among us. The miracle of Immanuel, God with us.
On Sunday evening we had a special Carol Service – special because there were so many guests, visitors and strangers celebrating this miracle with us. The church looked a picture, the choir and band were wonderful, the welcome was warm. We read the familiar but astounding stories, we sang carols we knew but from which words leapt out with fresh truth and we asked the question, how would we know God - with us?
I quoted the old rock song by Eric Bazilas:
If God had a name what would it be?
And would you call it to His face?
If you were faced with Him in all His glory
What would you ask if you had just one question?
What if God was one of us?
Just a slob like one of us
Just a stranger on the bus
Trying to make Its way home
If God had a face
What would it look like?
And would you want to see
If seeing meant that you would have to believe
In things like Heaven and Jesus and the Saints and all the Prophets
We prayed for the Holy Spirit to come and be with each of us every hour and every metre of every day. It was so moving to see scores of people come forward during the worship to light a candle, symbolic of their prayer and their worship.
I finished with my favourite Christmas poem (by Richard Crashaw) which contrasts the splendour and might of God in heaven with the earthy fragility of His presence with us, maybe not a slob but certainly on the bus:
Welcome, all wonders in one sight!
Eternity shut in a span;
Summer in winter; day in night;
Heaven in earth, and God in man.
Great little one, whose all-embracing birth
Lifts earth to heaven, stoops heav’n to earth.
If you would like to watch the videos again, the links are at the bottom of this blog.
CHRISTMAS FAMILY SERVICE
Our second Christmas service, which promises to be just as good as the Carol Service, will be an “All In” service and you’re invited to stay for lunch afterwards.
Food - please bring food ready to share, and if able, a little extra for guests. Please don't bring mince pies - they will be provided!
Decoration Competition – please make and bring along a hanging decoration to be hung up by string in the hall. Entries submitted at the start of the service and will be guest-judged to win prizes! Decorations need to be labelled with name and age to group entries.
Nativity Dress - everyone is invited and encouraged to come in nativity attire – it’s not just for the kids! Carrying a red Mulberry handbag doesn’t count.
FOR 2016 - LEADERSHIP DEVELOPMENT AND BIBLE TRAINING
If you are looking to equip yourself as a leader or to understand the bible better, I would recommend that you look at the following resources:
Servant Leadership School – SLS is our in-house leadership training course. We encourage emerging and current leaders to apply to join this Small Group “Explore Course”. A pre-requisite for being invited onto this course is to attend the Discovering Vineyard small group for a term first. The course runs annually from September. More information from Matt or Anne Button (firstname.lastname@example.org).
HUB - Hub is the Vineyard Churches (UK & Ireland) leadership training programme which happens in multiple locations around the UK and Ireland. It is designed to resource the VCUK&I vision by training pioneering leaders and church planters. Hub is for highly motivated, self-starting people who aspire to excellence in leadership and are exploring a life call to ministry. It involves meeting with 10-20 other Hub students on three Monday evenings each term (in Leeds) plus a full Saturday (usually in Leicester). There is some self-directed assessment each term. Go to www.hubtraining.org.uk or contact email@example.com.
Vineyard Institute - VI is the distance learning theological training for Vineyard leaders. It can be linked to Hub or taken separately. It offers broad-based theological training, linked to practical leadership skills. Each module lasts for about 12 weeks and you can take between one and six modules per year, to suit your own requirements. For each module, students will be placed in a learning community of at least 3 students; this may be church-based, area-based or virtual (online). Each module costs $112. Go to www.vineyardinstitute.org/main/uki or contact me - firstname.lastname@example.org.
Leeds School of Theology - LST is a partnership between Leeds churches for people who wish to deepen their theological and biblical understanding. LST seeks to equip, empower and inspire you to think theologically and to read, study and apply God's Word in a deep and transforming way. It is based around 10 Saturday sessions over the course of the year held at St George's. The cost is £320pa (bursaries may be available to the unwaged). To apply to the LST visit www.leeds-school-of-theology.org. The next course starts in January so apply quickly!
To finish, not a limerick this time but some of the top-ten cracker jokes for 2015 (according to whom?):
Why did Santa pour Lemsip into the chimney? He was coming down with the flue.
Why don't Volkswagen hold Christmas Carol Services? They get the readings wrong.
Why is there no Champagne at the Chelsea Christmas party? Because Mourinho got rid of the Fizzy-o.
Ho ho ho!
My prayer for you at Leeds Vineyard this Christmas is that we will learn again about the precious presence of God with us, Immanuel. May you know His peace, joy, hope and love amongst the general merriment and excess that goes on all around us!
Video 1: All is still at the worship of our King
Video 2: Know that you are loved - after John Lewis ad
Video 3: What are you worshipping this Christmas?? - spoof Mulberry ad