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January 2017

Hilary writes: ‘Walking Backwards to Christmas’

No, this is not about the old Goons song – that was called ‘I’m walking backwards for Christmas’! Walking Backwards to Christmas is the title of a beautiful book by Stephen Cottrell, Bishop of Chelmsford.

In it, he tells the Christmas story backwards. Starting with Mary and Joseph taking the baby Jesus to be presented at the temple, he travels backwards with each chapter. Escape to Egypt, Wise Men, Shepherds, birth, journey to Bethlehem, the visit of the angel, the prophecies of old. Right the way back to God appearing to Moses at the burning bush. This unusual backwards story-telling helps Cottrell get to the heart of the story: God first makes his name, purpose and love known to Moses. And then he makes his name, purpose and love known to the whole world when Jesus is born, Emmanuel, God with us.

Here we are in January, ready to walk forwards from Christmas. Every year it’s the same. We tidy up the decorations, and get on with our lives, often without a backward glance. This January, as we look forward to what 2017 might bring for us, let’s not forget to look back as well as forward. We might have closed the book but the story hasn’t finished. The baby has been born. God is still with us, on the difficult days, ordinary day and joyful days. Wherever love is, there is God.

In one chapter in his book, Cottrell imagines Casper as one of the wise men who uses all his wisdom, experience and longing to find the baby. When he does so, the baby changes him for ever. And as he turns to leave Jesus and continue his journey he says:

I tell you now, as we turn our faces away from Bethlehem, it doesn’t feel like an ending. Something has begun here. Something that has to do with love.

We don’t know what 2017 has in store for us or our world – but looking back to Christmas reminds us that something has begun. And it has to do with love.

 What do Christians believe? We are hoping to run a short course on Wednesday evenings starting on January 18th for anyone who would like to discover more about the Christian faith. Please contact Hilary Dawson or Anne Futcher to find out more.

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