Reflection for Christmastide 2020

What’s in a Name?

The Name Jesus

The Angel Gabriel is very clear: “You are to give Him the name Jesus.”  This was a very common Jewish name celebrating the ancient hero Joshua.  (Joshua is Hebrew, and Yeshua/Jesus is the Aramaic version)  The vital importance of the name is that it means “salvation.”  This is a loaded word originally meaning getting somebody out of a tight space, rescuing a person, setting a person free, and even bringing healing and wholeness.  Somehow, that name alone can tell us the true purpose of church.

The Difficulties of Working Underground

This is a drawing showing what it was like for children working in a south Lancashire coal mine in the 1840s.

Since being in Lowton and Golborne, it has been a privilege to meet to speak to several retired miners.  All tell of the tight spaces, the low ceiling tunnels, the narrowness of passageways, the absolute darkness of underground

blackout, and the constant awareness of being hundreds of feet below the open world. For many people, there is a spiritual counterpart to this claustrophobia in their day to day lives.

The Difficulties of Living on the Surface

From 1865, the Salvation Army were found bringing salvation to the slums and hovels created by the Industrial Revolution.  Here, they found that the  work in underground darkness with its constrictions, was also a picture of the homes on many families. The Sally Army officers kept log books of their pastoral work.  In these they often speak of the ravages of alcohol; the way it consumed the little money available.  They tell of absolute poverty and untreated illness.  The officers were aware of the violence going on in homes and above all the insufficiency of any food.  They quickly realised that salvation in these circumstances had to be far more than attending church, and knowing that sin had been forgiven.

The Gospel Reading: Luke 1.68-75  (The Benedictus)

68 “Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel, because he has come to his people and redeemed them. 69 He has raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant David 70 (as he said through his holy prophets of long ago), 71 salvation from our enemies and from the hand of all who hate us— 72 to show mercy to our ancestors and to remember his holy covenant, 73 the oath he swore to our father Abraham: 74 to rescue us from the hand of our enemies, and to enable us to serve him without fear 75 in holiness and righteousness before him all our days…”

Bringing Full Salvation to Those in Need

This is a part of a report of a Salvation Army officer from the 1800s:

“Mrs. W. – of Haggerston slum.   Heavy drinker, wrecked home, husband a drunkard, place dirty and filthy, terribly poor.  Saved* now for over two years.  Home A1, plenty of employment at cane-bottoming; husband now saved also…..”

The Salvation Army went on to open its own factories, feeding stations, housing estates, schools and even hospitals.

“Mr. A.M. in the Dials, was a great drunkard. Was in a slum meeting and heard the Captain speak  on Seek first the Kingdom of God. He called out and said: “Do you mean if I asked God for work, He will give it me?” Of course, she said “Yes.” He was converted* that night, found work, and is now employed in the gas works, Old Kent Road.”

Sometimes it seems we have barely scraped the surface of what the Bible means by “salvation.”  Ahead of us lies a wonderful gospel!  Let every one of us enter fully into all that Jesus promised.  Let us strive to ensure that each of our churches escapes from inert ecclesiastical paralysis to become  places where all can find complete rescue – full salvation!

” am no longer my own but yours. Put me to what you will, rank me with whom you will; put me to doing, put me to suffering; let me be employed for you, or laid aside for you, exalted for you, or brought low for you; let me be full, let me be empty, let me have all things, let me have nothing:

“I freely and wholeheartedly yield all things to your pleasure and disposal.

“And now, glorious and blessèd God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, you are mine and I am yours…..


(Taken from The Covenant Service, Methodist Book of Offices)