Christmas Message From Our Senior Chaplain Keith Thomasson

It definitely was Christmas. Ice on the railway lines. Massive delays out of London Euston on Christmas eve. Crowds of people at the information point. Railway staff trying to be patient, attempting to explain again and again that as soon as information came in they would share it.

A well-dressed man strode to the front of the gathering. He indicated it was imperative he made the journey home as quickly as possible. He was heard and then invited to rejoin the queue and that his enquiry would be dealt with when it was his turn. The man became irate and asked, ’Do you know who I am?’  The member of staff turned on the microphone for announcements.  She said, ‘Can someone please come and assist the gentleman at the information point? He does not know who he is.’

For some of you the BBC programme, ‘Who do you think you are?’ is fascinating. From Cheryl of the X Factor to Danny Dyer of East Enders and to Amanda Holden of Strictly Come Dancing. More locally, I suggest that when you visit your library you will see local history sections and courses on tracing ancestry. The fascination with who we are is not new. The biblical writers were also captivated with the subject and long lists of who begat who have been turned into comedy turns. Yet is there more to their potential impact than this? Let’s face it, who gives serious attention to the genealogy of Jesus in Matthew 1.1-17?

I suggest you read it through and identify the familiar names. In addition, ask yourself, ‘Who are the odd ones out?’ For me the ones of real interest are Tamar, Rahab, the wife of Uriah and Ruth. Three named women in a long list of men. Then a reference to Uriah the Hittite, with Uriah like the women being a non- Hebrew, an ‘outsider’. Uriah’s wife was Bathsheba. In delving deeper we find the stories around these people show lives that demonstrate a commitment to the values of righteousness, faithfulness, loyalty.

So what? I think that God works within the ancestry of Jesus with outsiders who actively demonstrate values that are reflected in the life of Jesus who is ‘God with us’. Mary, who here is interestingly married to Joseph, is in a line of strong and influential women who together have shaped history, living with the possibilities inherent in their everyday situations. Within Alabaré we have the privilege of encountering God in those we meet and being shaped by these interactions for good.  

I ask, ‘Who do you think you are?’ and ‘Who do you think Jesus is?’ And in the company of the Holy family and their visitors at Christmas, I encourage you (in the words of John Updike), to become immersed in the ‘perpetual present tense of living’. Wishing you a blessed Christmas time.

Keith Thomasson (senior chaplain)