May I wish you a happy New Year, and indeed, a peaceful Christmas season! The last two months in our community have been turbulent. Many of us around Charterhouse Road have been shocked and saddened by the death of Margaret Hawkins. I was contacted by a mutual friend within an hour of her collapse and was able to visit her in hospital the evening that her house was burgled. From that point, until her death the following Sunday, many people took time to think about where they had been, what they might have seen and who they were with. With such a tragic death comes a process of reappraisal. What are the values of our community? What priorities should I make that I have not made? And so on… I would want to say here, as I have said on BBC Crime Watch (and will say again at Margaret’s funeral), that Margaret was well cared for in the community. That is why it was such a disturbing shock that she was targeted in this way.
There are lessons that we learn from even the most terrible of events. (These are not comfortable experiences for neighbours and friends I admit.) Such experiences teach us to look out for one another more than ever. They teach us to build community, rather than lead us to expect that ‘community-mindedness’ will happen by itself. They teach us to look outward and care for the most vulnerable in our society – for if we do not, our own lives are diminished. These are all lessons that I hope to continue learning. Some months ago, I was prompted to study the story of the ‘good Samaritan’. It is a story that many of us will know from our school days or childhood. Even before the untimely death of Margaret Hawkins, I had resolved to teach a series on it in the beginning of the New Year. The words of Jesus’ parable are all the more appropriate now: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he fell into the hands of robbers…” I hope that you will consider joining me for the series entitled: ‘Lessons from the Good Samaritan’. What does it mean to show compassion? How should it be expressed? What is its extent? Be ready for a challenging and thought-provoking 3 weeks!
As I write about these sad, but important issues, I am also in the midst of Christmas celebrations (long past when you read this I’m sure.) Nevertheless, they have reminded us that into a broken world was born the Son of God. Into a world where a tyrant (Herod) murdered all children in the Bethlehem region under the age of two in order to try to kill a ‘rival’, Jesus came. God is not separate from suffering or poverty, God is intimately acquainted with it. He has walked in the shoes of the poor and the persecuted, yet he lifts us to heaven, as he opens its door. Such tension between joy and struggle, miracle and murder makes the Christianity a challenging faith. Yet the honest way in its which it does not duck issues of death and new life – for me – makes it ‘true’. My faith in Jesus is not only true historically and intellectually, it is true for me.
In the year ahead, we may all need to revisit this truth. Whatever challenges this year brings you, I pray that you may know the peace of the Christ Child.
Yours, in his service