A Christmas message from…

Laura White
Laura White

Reverend Paul Seaton-Burn – Rector of the Whiddon Parishes

I met him the other day along New Street; I’d know those eyes anywhere.

I saw him again, fetching the ball when it almost landed on top of the Pavilion at Zeal (kicking it back to those lads on the Rec with a nifty move, he’s surprisingly quick). Someone saw him trying to hitch a ride along the Venton Straight; the cars and the coaches and the Thompsons lorries kept passing by. He kept on walking.

You may well have come across him by the river – he loves the rivers around here – and during the long, hot days of the summer he could often be seen sitting upstream from Shilley Pool, face sun-wise, letting his bare feet trail in the churning waters of the Blackaton Brook until they were numb.

Last Thursday – I’m sure it was him – he was picking up the junk dumped on the bridlepath off the Belstone road. Other people’s unwanted leftovers and bad behaviour (he ‘specialises in dealing with them’, he said, ‘proper job.’). I caught him laughing with the nurses when I dropped in on a friend at Tavistock A&E; he’d been there all night. I met him the other day along New Street; holding some-one’s hand.

Once he told me some of the nicknames of old friends long gone; of the days when there were a lot more ale-houses than chapels. He has some tales, I can tell you; of Christmas Eves at the Rising Sun, the Bullers, the Kings and getting on the wrong side of Mabel at the Drewe once or twice…Now, the religious people looked down their noses at him for that sort of thing, but there’s nowhere he doesn’t go. They say his name lots of times on a Friday night but no-one would think to buy him a pint.

He’s there alright, just like he was in the days when the miners came down from the moor, thirsty from the wind-blasted working land that gave them their living (for a time). All gone now. I met him the other day along New Street; but I was in a hurry. His hands were killing him, carrying the bags and steering the pushchair while the toddler was screaming to walk. I didn’t know where to look.

But up at Teigncombe last Sunday he was reminiscing about the songs and the prayers and the curses of the wool-carriers and tradesmen and the pilgrims as they snaked their way north and south across fields and fords and moorland. Long gone to us, maybe, but not to him. He helped my friend Sean the other week, over Lydford way.

Putting in the new hedgerows – replacing ones ripped out post-War – he just loves planting things, things that will last.Loads of people say they’re ‘not religious’, or that he wouldn’t be interested in them because they’re ‘not holy enough’, but he is. Some blame him for everything, but he sees the hurt behind all that. Some just sneer and say he doesn’t even exist.

Like Santa Claus. I guess it’s easier that way. I met Jesus the other day along New Street – the one we sing about every Christmas – have you?

Reverend Robert Atwell – Bishop of Exeter

Christmas is a great time for catching up with friends and family. Long, lazy meals are chances to tell old stories, relax and laugh.

For some, of course, the joy of Christmas is muted by sadness or loneliness. When the front door is shut, they feel overwhelmed by rafts of unhappy memories. There is often a huge gap between the world of the adverts and the reality we face on a daily basis.

The fantasy world says life is a series of treats and choices: ‘It’s your call’, ‘Do what you want’, ‘Go on, spoil yourself. You’re worth it’. Reality is about getting up in the morning and trying to make the best of things. The problem with the world of the adverts is not just that it is a fantasy.

The problem is that it encourages us
to slide into forgetting that good community life, like a happy family, doesn’t happen by magic. It needs the investment of time and energy.

Every school, every parish, every voluntary organisation depends on people giving up their time to make it happen. Without effort, community life withers and we end up strangers rather than neighbours. At Christmas we celebrate the gift of God to us in the child Jesus Christ.

His birth was no fantasy. It was a real event in a time of political unrest in an occupied country. Such is the generosity of a God who takes risks. The God we thought a stranger, we suddenly discover to be a neighbour and a friend, crying in a manger, inviting our love in return. Meeting this God transforms us.

Let’s enjoy Christmas, the parties and the get-togethers. But come the New Year, when we return to the ordinary and the routine, let’s pray that through our celebration of Christ’s birth we may discover the energy to give to others, to build community and strengthen friendship. This birth challenges complacency. This birth invites generosity.

Reverend Leigh Winsbury, of the Hatherleigh Benefice: Hatherleigh, Meeth, Jacobstowe, Exbourne and Northlew

Hello, and warmest wishes to you, wherever you may be, for a blessed celebration of Christmas this year.

My wife and I moved to Hatherleigh in January, when I became the new vicar of five parishes, so this is the first Christmas we have celebrated here. A part of my heart has lived on Dartmoor for many years so it is a delight to finally live within sight of its northernmost tors

Christmas, of course, for many folks for different reasons, isn’t as much fun as they make it look on the TV. Some hang a lot of hope on the ‘magic of Christmas time’ to somehow solve family issues and problems, only to be sadly disappointed and disillusioned afterwards, often with a side order of extra debt. So what’s it all about, and is there something in it that we’re missing? The story of Jesus has been called ‘the greatest story ever told’ although these days it’s hard to find many folks who know it that well. Too often the idea of remembering that Christmas celebrates the birth of Jesus gets entirely neglected. With that in mind I thought I would offer the opportunity this year for my congregations to have a closer look at the readings used in the traditional ‘9 lessons and carols’ service.

When you look a little deeper, you discover that many of those familiar words about Jesus were written hundreds, if not thousands of years before He was born; it turns out that the story is a lot bigger, certainly longer, than most people realise.  Every major event in the birth, life, ministry, death and resurrection of Jesus was written about by the prophets in the bible centuries before they happened, both to encourage people to look for His arrival, and to be sure it was really Him when He came! And the story isn’t over yet…

The prophet Isaiah famously wrote about Jesus; ‘and He will be called Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of peace’, adding that; ‘Of the increase of His government and peace, there will be no end’. Looking at the state of our human attempts at self-government across the world right now, I reckon it’s good news all the way that Jesus’ authority will increase.

It hasn’t yet reached its peak; the best is yet to come. Jesus did come, He’s not a fiction, look it up for yourselves. And He did the unthinkable; voluntarily gave Himself up to a death that could restore the connection; the relationship between us and our maker.  And then came back from the dead to prove it. Those of us who have said yes to relationship with Him are delighted that we did; life has not been the same since. So whether it’s the government of nations, our families or each one of our lives that needs a change, why not make space for the governing love of Jesus this Christmas.

Why not pop in to your local church over the season, listen carefully to what is said. Hear the story filled out and put a bit of substance into your Christmas, something really worth a celebration. As the carol says ‘O come let us adore Him’.

Merry Christmas, and a blessed new year to you.

Local Life