Seeing is believing
anyone who never saw "Miracle on 34th Street" there follows a spoiler alert. The film is about an old gentleman
called Kris Cringle (Richard Attenborough) who plays a remarkably authentic looking Santa in a New York department store.
Jealous of their popularity, a rival store sets "Santa" up by sending a man to goad him in the street until Mr Cringle
strikes his tormenter with his walking stick. Should Mr Cringle be tried for assault or committed to psychiatric care? The
whole case hangs on the question "do you believe in Santa?" As they await the judge's verdict, the people of
New York fill the streets surrounding the courtroom, many holding up banners proclaiming, "We believe". As the
judge is about to give his verdict, a small girl gives him a Christmas card containing a one-dollar note. On the note she
has underlined the words, "In God we trust". Realising the significance of this gesture, the judge announces that
if the US Government can operate on faith in a supreme being whose existence cannot be proven, then it must follow that the
state of New York should accept and acknowledge by a similar faith, that Santa also exists. Thousands cheer in the streets,
Christmas bells ring out across New York and they all live happily ever after.
Hollywood at its finest I know, but with our country facing the greatest uncertainty since the end
of World War Two, wouldn't it be great if we had something to cheer about? With the arrival of our first grandchild in
mid-December, Joan and I certainly have a busy and exciting Christmas ahead, but sadly, many parents and grandparents will
be watching their children perform the school nativity, sing their carols and open their presents, with minds preoccupied
with Brexit and everything that goes with it. There's a real danger that the message of hope born in the child of Bethlehem
will go right over our heads this year, together with the innocent acceptance on the faces of our children. And that's
just the believers, goodness knows what keeps unbelievers going at times like this!
Jesus said "Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God, believe also in me"
(John 14) and yet I suspect that many-even those who claim to be believers-will indeed let their hearts be troubled this Christmas.
So how do we rise above all the doubt and uncertainty of our present day? How can we give ourselves-and the people around
us-a "faith-lift"? Well let's start by looking again at that message of hope. Seeing us repeatedly fail in
our futile attempts to be at one with Him, our Almighty Creator came in person to become the sacrificial lamb, wash away our
sins and open the gates of heaven for us. From His birth in Bethlehem to His death at Calvary, Jesus taught us His Father's
will, based on one simple commandment, to love one another, as He loves us. But here's the rub-time and again Jesus demonstrated
His love for us, for all to see, by making a bee-line for the sick, the poor, the rejected, the very people who needed Him
most, and making them whole. Such people still exist-and they need Him more than ever today, but sadly more and more fail
to believe. What's the difference between then and now? They saw and believed. Many witnessed these things first-hand,
others were so energised by what they saw or heard that their enthusiasm wore off on the people around them.
Jesus may not be around physically today, but He left us with the
same power He used to heal, to feed and even to raise the dead. He left us His Holy Spirit, with whom and by whom we can continue
to do great works, indeed He promised that we would do even greater things than He did, so people would believe (John 14).
Returning to that film, the real miracle of 34th Street was that it took a child to convince the judge. This little girl put
her faith into action and did something about it. There are many ways Christians continue to demonstrate God's love in
Weston; Christians Against Poverty, Winter Warmth, Comfort at Christmas, Somewhere to Go, and most recently the Night Assessment
Centre, but there are so many other simple ways to help people believe in the Good News of Jesus Christ and bring His Kingdom
of peace on earth. Shopping for a neighbour, bringing in their bins, making a coffee, buying a sandwich, the list is endless.
In the same way, let your light shine
before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven. (Matthew 5) or in other words-seeing is
Joan and I wish you all
a peaceful and blessed Christmastide