Of the three key elements in our parish vision, the one that strikes me as particularly daunting is ‘sharing our faith’. But Christmas perhaps makes it easier than normal, just because the truths of our faith still linger in the cultural atmosphere at this time of year.
By ‘sharing our faith’, we don’t mean being constantly ready to give people mini-lectures on Christianity and its benefits, or to answer all the tough questions that non-Christians might ask (often not so different from the ones we ask ourselves). But we do mean being willing to communicate about what we believe and why it matters to us.
In this Christmas period, many people will come to services in church who haven’t done that for at least a year: not necessarily our own Christmas services, but school and community events too. A number of our churches will have had over a thousand people through the door in the last few weeks. Those leading and preaching have a specific and serious responsibility to articulate what we believe about Jesus and why it matters to very mixed groups of people in terms of outlook and spirituality.
All of us, though, can communicate something about what the story of the birth of Christ means to us, through the way we read a lesson, sing carols, hand out hymn books, or serve mince pies. All of us can’t help but communicate something about the kind of community we are because of that story, for instance by whether we try to talk to those who don’t normally join us, and what we say if we do. And any of us may find an opportunity comes our way in conversation to say something about what we believe and why it matters to us, after the service, in the street, or over the dinner table at home, and what we say at that moment may carry far more weight than the best-constructed sermon.
Sharing our faith can feel daunting, perhaps because we’re naturally reticent people, or because we’re simply not used to doing it, or because we expect what we say to be ignored or contested. But we know that we have been entrusted by God with ‘joy to the world’, and that the good news of Christ meets the deepest need of every human heart.
The Revd Dr Jeremy Worthen