I have been vicar of the two churches here (Grantchester and Newnham) for just about six months now – I can’t really believe where the time has gone. We arrived in the hot sunshine (yes, there was some!) of the summer back in July but have just celebrated Christmas here too. There was even a sprinkling of snow back in December!
We have had a great welcome to Cambridge since we arrived last summer. Not only is it a beautiful place to live and work and enjoy family life, it is a really friendly, interesting place and we have been welcomed so well with kind words, greetings, gifts and prayers. I am slowly getting to know people, some only by face but occasionally I also remember a name!
One of the privileges of my role is catching a glimpse of God in different ways and places, from the beauty and majesty of our church buildings, built to give God glory, to the worship, in all its forms, that takes place within them. But also beyond the walls of these beautiful buildings, in the stories of faith and hope that people tell me; in the smiles and tears of families who have lost loved ones; in the joyful celebration of those seeking marriage or baptism in the church; in the creativity and passion of so many that I meet in the wonderful city; in the love, kindness and generosity of the many who have welcomed us into this new phase of our life.
God is a god of surprises and he is often to be found in unexpected places – we have just celebrated Christmas, the arrival more than two thousand years ago of the Christ child. Not to a palace, not into royalty and wealth and privilege but to a young ordinary couple, in a feeding trough of a borrowed stable. I wonder if the nativity story is so familiar to us, brought out and retold each year, that we have forgotten what a wonderful, amazing tale it is – and that it is not just for Christmas! That story of God coming to us, of seeking us out and becoming like us, of being found in the most surprising of places and in the reality of human life, is a truth that holds always. God is with us.
In just a couple of months we will begin to mark a different Christian festival, Easter. A different story to Christmas, in many ways a harder one, but we see the same message. God is still with us, in surprising and astonishing ways, including the bleak cross of Good Friday but also in meals with friends, on hillsides and in cities, with a few or with the many, over years, decades, centuries and millennia – and now, in the lives and experiences and hearts of many, many ordinary people who are trying to live in the light of God’s love and to follow Jesus and to share His love with others.
So, as you come to pack away the Christmas decorations this week, if you haven’t already done so, why not just pause and reflect again on the incarnation, the truth of God with us. You might even keep one of your Christmas decorations out, that as you go on through the year, as Winter moves to Spring, you might glance at it and remember that Christmas message that is for always. God is with us, each of us, in times of joy and excitement but also in times of sadness and struggle. I hope he surprises you this new year. Happy 2018.
Rev Rachel Rosborough