Entering the World with Jesus in Our Neighbourhoods

by Christine Sine

Jeannie Kendall

Saint NicholasIt all began with a cup of hot chocolate. In December 2013, the church I belong to sang carols in a parade of shops we circulated in. We also gave out free hot chocolate. No-one could quite believe it. “Free? Why?”

The church since then has sought wherever possible to give things away. Chocolate and a card to each of the 30 shops both at Christmas and Easter: a quality Easter-egg giveaway to shoppers before Easter, and, this year, a free summer fun day including yet more free chocolates (See www.sharethemiracle.org ). They are the highlights of my year, with some surprising and sometimes poignant conversations.

I remember the lady who, receiving an Easter egg, said “I don’t deserve it”. We were able to say briefly that God’s love was simply there, for all of us, whatever we feel about ourselves. Then there was the elderly lady who brought tears to the eyes of those giving away boxes of chocolates at the summer fun day, by telling them she had never been given anything in her entire life. She walked away still shaking her head in disbelief at the kindness.

From that hot chocolate giveaway though something fascinating grew. A local councillor wondered out loud if something more could emerge: something that could bring the local community together in a time of increasing isolation and fracture. A group gathered, formed of that same councillor, the two church ministers, local shopkeepers and residents: an incredible group who it is a great privilege to know and to work with. The church and parade of shops are on a busy main road and bus route so we were told a closure would never be allowed: it was. There were no Christmas lights in the parade: these were put up.

Yule FestAnd so for each of the past three years the Yulefest has been held, and is now firmly established as a local tradition. Generations love walking together across a normally hazardous road, local community groups and schools perform. Children enjoy competitions, face painting and craft: this year the church car park became a food court with the third year of free roast chestnuts and free hot drinks in the church café. Money is raised for local charities, but this is secondary to simply being together and celebrating together.

Jesus in the neighbourhood. It seems to me He is simply there. There amid the fun and laughter. There is the wonder of a child as lights are lit. There as families gather. There as things are given away, as His love is freely given. We don’t need to take Him into our neighbourhoods. He is there already, waiting to greet us in a myriad of ways if we can have the eyes to see.

“The Word became flesh and blood, and moved into the neighbourhood.” John 1:14

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