From David, our Moderator

 

Christmas is the point in time when God laid down the full stop that divided history and put a question mark over all our lives with the coming of Jesus into the world. We might ask what is Jesus’ vision for the church that He founded? What should we pray for? What should we aim for as we go forward through Advent into 2019?

 

At school I remember everyone in Sixth Form having to take a course called “Use of English”. Part of the course, if my memory serves me correctly, involved the rules of punctuation.

What a difference punctuation makes in the understanding of the meaning of a document: a full stop; a comma; an exclamation mark or a question mark.

 

Interestingly, the New Testament documents had no punctuation. In fact, for the first few centuries, all the words were in capital letters and there were no spaces between the words.  The reader put in the pauses and intonation as they read. You might say “So what?”

 

Consider the most well-known prayer in the bible. The one in Matthew's gospel that we call the Lord's prayer, though it is better called the disciple’s prayer. The prayer repeated in churches throughout the world week after week.

 

‘Our Father in heaven,

hallowed be your name,

your kingdom come,

your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.

Give us today our daily bread.

Forgive us our debts,

as we also have forgiven our debtors.

And lead us not into temptation,

but deliver us from evil.’  Matthew 6vv 9-13

 

We normally write it with a full stop after the second ‘heaven’.

 

Now supposing that we change the full stop to a colon.

What follows now becomes a list of all those things that show what Jesus understood to be necessary to make that kingdom a reality - the three indicators of the kingdom and will of God on earth. All of the petitions are communal they ask not for “me” but “us”.  All are achievable.

 

The first indicator would be that everyone should have daily bread. All would have enough to eat, and no one would have too much. A reflection of the story in Exodus of the manna in the wilderness.

 

The second would be that no one should be in debt, just as Jesus on the cross has taken our debt away. The last words of Jesus are quite literally “The debt is paid”.

The third would be that all should be free of the evil things that tempt us. Those things that spoil and damage our lives and the lives of those around us. If that were so, Jesus gave his disciples not only a prayer to pray, but a practical, achievable vision to work towards. A vision of the church as a community in which the kingdom and will of God is happening.

 

What a difference punctuation makes!

Every Blessing this Christmas and New Year.

 

David