The President of the Methodist Conference has challenged people to push past their assumptions about the nativity story this Christmas.
The Rev Leo Osborn said that asking God to take away our belief that we’ve “seen it all or know it all” would help people to reflect on things in a new light.
“For if we look carefully, this simple story may have important things to say to us about many of the personal, social, religious and international issues facing us and our world today, and God’s part in them all,” he declared.
The full text follows:
"Each year the Connexional Team send out a Christmas Card from Methodist Church House and this year the Vice-President and I have been allowed to use it too! It’s from a painting by He Qi. When I looked at it, at first I could only see two wise men. “Where’s the third?” I immediately thought and then not long afterwards thought again, “But why should there be three anyway?" Yet we all bring our pre-suppositions to the Christmas story, don’t we, perhaps expecting to find not only three wise men but kings and innkeepers not to mention donkeys, holly, ivy and snow! But you’ll be hard pushed to discover any of them in the Gospel narratives - not even in the Authorised version! Even the wise men themselves of course had pre-conceptions that a king would be born in Jerusalem, not Bethlehem. But when I glanced for a second and third time and in a different light I could eventually see where the third Wise Man was - and although it doesn’t add anything to the Gospel story it made me feel sentimentally better!
"Well perhaps this Christmas each of us needs to come again to this oh so familiar story, asking that God would take away the pre-supposition that we’ve seen it all or know it all and help us to reflect on things in a new light. Or perhaps to have light shed on something long since known but forgotten or ignored. For, if we look carefully, this simple story may have important things to say to us about many of the personal, social, religious and international issues facing us and our world today, and God’s part in them all.
"And challenging our pre-suppositions and opening our eyes is surely what God is always about, as I have discovered during my first six months as President, when, although some situations and people have been as I’d imagined, many haven’t and I’ve had to learn to look at things in a different light. And for the coming year you may already have imagined - or planned out - how life or faith or church is going to be. Well, prepare to be surprised like Mary, Joseph, the shepherds and wise men were long ago! But remember too that the one who came and comes is named Emmanuel - God with us - so whatever may be different from what you imagine and however things may seem as a result, God remains the same - dwelling alongside you in grace, truth and love.
"May that same God bless you this Christmas and beyond," he concluded.