It was very special to me, in September of this year, to be able to walk peregrinatio around the very scenic county of Cumbria in the north of England. Worshipping one Sunday morning in a large and lively church in the town of Whitehaven, I was interested to see that the congregation there included a considerable number of people of Chinese descent.
In order to help those of them who were not proficient in English, a translation was provided through special headsets. When I asked what had brought these Chinese people to Britain, I was told that they had mainly come to work in local restaurants but that now many had their own businesses and had settled in the local area. These people were clearly very much part of that church family in the distant lands close to the English Lake District.
In a similar vein, in another town in Cumbria, I got chatting with a lady who was very keen that I should visit her local church. She described to me how God had worked in her life and then added, ‘I find that wherever I visit in the world, there are always brothers and sisters in Christ’.
These two incidents reminded me of the truly international nature of the Christian faith and of the loving purposes of God for our world and His. This is the God who came amongst us as a tiny baby at the first Christmas- the Immanuel, God with us, foretold by the prophet Isaiah and announced by Matthew at the start of his account of the nativity.
This is the message of Christmas, a message that extends to the most distant lands as Isaiah prophesied long ago. The message of a God who is with us.
In whatever distant lands we may find ourselves, may we be ready to welcome the Immanuel, God with us at this Christmas time.