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Duddingston Kirk, Edinburgh

Sunday Services at 10 am and 11.30 am

Letter from the Manse

 November 2018

Dear Friends

I do like the advertisement on the radio of the child reporting back to Dad who had helped with their homework, that 1066 was the date of the Battle of Hastings and not about the World Cup! It is an advert about going and getting your eyes tested. Often what we cannot see, we make up. This is no less true when it comes to Biblical truths and in particular the Christmas story. Somehow, over the years, we have imagined all sorts of things and bolted them on to the Bible story about the Christ Child’s birth in Bethlehem 2000 years ago.

And so, according to the Bible, the three kings were not kings but men who studied the stars and were visitors from the east. The Bible does not even say that there were three of them! The shepherds and the visitors from the east do not meet each other, let alone share a stable with the Holy Family!

And so what does it matter? I get very concerned when folk try to distort things about our faith in a way that is less than encouraging to others. I once heard it said that ‘Santa’ is an anagram of ‘Satan’. This completely misunderstands that ‘Santa’ comes to us from the Dutch for ‘Saint’ – Saint Nicholas, a real person who was a bishop in the early church and famous for his generosity to others in need.

It matters that we do not lose the real Christmas story – you know, the one without the elves and tinsel. It matters that as a people of faith we are able to share the real Christmas message of love and of our God coming into a dark world bringing light, new life and hope. Such a wonderful story needs to be retold again and again to remind all of us of the reality of a God who loves us and enables us to love others through the Godly spirit and example of the one who came as a baby born in a stable at Christmas time.

I spoke recently with Rev Laston Chisanga and Mr Chipende Chomba of St Mark’s congregation in Kabwe, Zambia. I was able to pass on to them the good news that we have been able to send them 192 Bibles from our congregation as a gift. They were delighted and pass back to us their grateful thanks and say that this gift will be a wonderful tool in their mission. Rev Laston also mentioned that at their recent Harvest Thanksgiving service he baptised 108 babies. This took him one and a half hours and he did not run out of water! He also mentioned to me that the following week 118 adults were baptised into the faith. The congregation at St Mark’s is growing – hallelujah! What a wonderful Christmas gift that is for us to know.

On behalf of our ministry team may I wish you and your family a very happy Christmas and a prosperous New Year in 2019!

Rev. Dr James Jack