On a recent visit to a charity shop run by the Church, the Moderator of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland, Rt Rev Dr David Bruce, met two volunteers from Iran who won’t be home for Christmas.
In his Christmas Message, Dr Bruce writes about what home is – a place of acceptance, a place of love, and a place of hospitality. He also reflects on the fact that sometimes it is a place that we cannot be. He shares the experience of Mary and Joseph, who were not at home in Nazareth that first Christmas. Like the shepherds, who were out in the fields, the three wise men were not at home. They had left their homeland to follow a star, looking for a promised king.
Full text of the PCI Moderator’s 2020 Christmas message: At Home For Christmas?
“Of course we all expect to be at home for Christmas. But what if we can’t be? I visited our International Meeting Point Op Shop at Carlisle Circus in Belfast recently, an amazing place that is more than a charity shop – although it is an excellent place for young parents to find quality nearly new children and baby clothes, plus essential equipment and toys. There I met Zorhre and Fahimeh, two shop volunteers, who are from Iran. For obvious reasons, they won’t be at home for Christmas. So for them, the Op Shop is more than a shop – it is a kind of home from home.
“Home is a place of acceptance. The church always needs to have this to the forefront of its outreach. People come to us from every conceivable background. If we cannot welcome them in sincerity, then we have missed out on something central which Jesus himself said. “Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me.” (Matthew 11:28 – The Message.)
“Home is a place of love. Love means saying sorry when we mess up, so that relationships can be repaired. Love means laughter and tears, in equal measure. Love means saying “no” as well as “yes”. Love means putting the defenceless at the top of the pile. “So, no matter what I say, what I believe, and what I do, I’m bankrupt without love.” (1 Corinthians 13:7 – The Message.)
“Home is a place of hospitality. Through my adult life I have visited in homes in some of the poorest countries of the world, and experienced the most astonishing levels of welcome. It is humbling and even discomforting to receive much from those who have so little. But how powerful it is to discover that it is more of a blessing to give than to receive. “Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it.” (Hebrews 13:2 – NIV.)
“Sometimes, home is a place we cannot be. That first Christmas Mary and Joseph were not at home. They were told there was no room in the inn, until one innkeeper offered them temporary shelter with his animals. Out in the fields the shepherds watching their sheep weren’t at home – possibly they were homeless. And neither were the wise men, who had left their home to follow a star, looking for a promised king. “On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshipped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.” (Mathew 2:11 – NIV).
“As we prepare to welcome family and friends to our homes – ‘bubbling’ safely within the necessary restrictions – let us be open-handed so that the blessings we have received can be generously shared. As we also remember those who can’t be with us this year, let us remember and celebrate, even in these dark, yet hope-filled days, the birth of the one who is the light of the world.”
Rt Rev Dr David Bruce
Presbyterian Church in Ireland