What do the scarlet dress uniforms of several units of the British Army, the damper keys on a Steinway piano and a snooker table have in common?
This isn’t the start of a very bad joke, as would grace many of our Christmas crackers. Those of you who saw Patrick Grant’s tv programme on the making of the uniforms for the King’s coronation will know that the fabric for all of these things is made in the same West Yorkshire woollen mill. Huge bundles of Merino wool come in from New Zealand and Australia, then it is processed and dyed and made into these things and a myriad more. The comment was made of whether the sheep that was shorn would have any idea it would grace the back of a British Army Officer, or a Steinway, or a snooker table on which the best players in the world would play?
It reminded me of the story of the Three Trees, which I’ve told once or twice in churches around this time of year. The 3 trees standing tall at the top of a hill watching everything that goes on in the village below. Little did any of them know that one would become a feeding trough from which animals would eat and a small baby would be laid. Another the timbers for a boat that would take a preacher man out into the middle of the Lake so he could better address the crowds and would almost be capsized in a storm until the same preacher man calmed the wind and the waves. The third tree would lie forgotten in a timber yard until one day it was hauled out and rough-hewn into a cross bar for a place of crucifixion.
The story, and the story of the merino wool, both speak in the beginning of ordinary things, things we take for granted, yet with unexpected and extra-ordinary endings. We could probably think of many more if we took a moment. The potato that appears in some fancy form in a banquet, or as a simple jacket spud served to someone hungry and lonely in a warm space this Christmas. The copper ore taken from the rock which might adorn the spire of a church, or the outer casing of a bullet. A glorious field of sunflowers that might be used to make cooking oil or become symbols of pride and resistance for Ukrainians across the world.
Most of us are pretty ordinary, we lead ordinary lives, we won’t ever find ourselves in the pages of a history book. But what begins with the ordinary can end with extra-ordinary, beautiful, grace-filled, hope-filled, light-filled.
There was an interview on the BBC news the other day with Tim Edwards, father of Ellie who was shot dead in a pub in Wallasey last Christmas Eve. He has determined to make a stand against gun crime. He had asked the utterly understandable question of where God had been in the horrific events of that night. His priest’s reply was that evil is the absence of God, but God was to be found in the people who rushed to Ellie’s aid and who were with her as she died, even though it put them in danger. Ordinary people who never imagined what was to happen or the part they would play.
I pray none of us ever have to play that part. But I also pray that we might reflect and realise that God has used us in extraordinary ways in this past year and that we remain open to God’s Spirit using us again in the time still to come.
Have a blessed Christmas and New Year.
Rev Angy Long, Chair of District
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