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It was messy but exceptionally beautiful 

What a wonderful thing it is to have people queuing up in a church. I just came Christmas in a bapback from The Living Room Christmas lunch - “Christmas in a bap”. It’s was a privilege to be part of this extraordinary event and I honour all those who serve at St Mags, in both seen and unseen ways, to make this stuff happen - thank you.  There is a great simplicity in showing God’s love to others with a cup of coffee and Christmas Dinner stuffed in a bap. It was messy but exceptionally beautiful!

Less than a month before we saw another set of queues. The Black Friday sales, and it was not so beautiful. This winter season with its season’s greetings has been subject to so many attempted takeovers. But Christmas is not for sale and the real message of Christmas remains the same - Jesus. A child is born, it’s messy, birth always is, but this ones worse, it’s in a stable far away from home. This new life, as messy as it is, is God breaking in to tell the world he loves us and that he has a plan. He takes the chaos and makes it Holy by being born right in the middle of it all. Christmas is about new life - God with us in the midst of the mess.

At St Mags it has been a year of new things. New lights in the church, a new location for the font, New Wine with over 70 people, a new children’s group (Rock Solid), new followers of Jesus with 16 adults and 8 children getting baptised, a new Bishop (who loves what’s happening at St Mags), new teams and new growth. In fact 2014 was the year we went beyond 200 people and we keep pressing in to our goal of 500 one by one.

But new life is messy and hard work. For many people 2014 has been a difficult year, one marked by loss, or depression, or the wrestle with addiction and the internal emotional struggle of daily life. But even in all this one of the things that delights and surprises me is the way this community holds so well those who are going through the tough times in life; unafraid of the pain and the mess and simply continuing to extend love and grace to everyone. St Mags is a family where you can show how things really are, you don’t need to run and hide, just be you and allow God and his people to meet you whatever you are going through.

In my preaching and thinking over the last two years one of the themes that I have felt constantly drawn to is “slowing down”. This has not always been about us doing less but about our internal pace being slow enough to hear and make space for God each day. So for Meg and I to take a sabbatical from January to March 2015 feels like a natural extension of God’s call to slow down. We can honestly say that we don’t want to be away from the St Mags family for a moment, the adventure is so amazing, but we know that taking time out is going to be a good thing. We have planned a few things, including Meg and I going on a marriage weekend and we are working on a trip to Spain to spend time with a Christian Recovery Community called Betel. But mostly it will be  just slowing down and resting. Taking the time to allow the new life of Jesus to be born in us again.

Have a great time while we are away, love each other, don’t be afraid of the messiness of new life and keep seeking first the kingdom. Remember that, like the meaning of Christmas, our vision is simple - Jesus; full life for all.

Thank you for all that you are and all that you have done over the last year. We pray that as 2014 draws to a close, you may continue to know new life in Jesus.

Have a Great Christmas and Happy New year.

Mark and Meghan Searle