Normally Churches are delighted to welcome the stranger but this week we had a visitor we rather wish had never bothered to stop by.
On Wednesday 20th December I received a phone call from the Principal of the Christian School attached to our Church, telling me there had been a burglary. Entering the space known as “The Minister’s Room” which serves as an office and interview area I was shocked to see the smashed window, glass scattered everywhere and a general mess indicating that the intruder had been searching through drawers and cupboards. A survey of the building quickly revealed that the thief had entered every part of the building and in some cases had broken through internal locked doors and cupboards.
Wednesday turned out to be a memorable day. As well as the police and forensic teams being onsite we were inundated with local media as another church had also been burgled in the community, generating considerable interest. On reflection we felt deeply grateful after the phone calls, television and radio interviews had ended. No-one had been in the building during the robbery, the losses were relatively small and the damage was fairly minimal. By the evening everything was tidied up, with a boarded window being the only visible reminder of the break-in.
We could not help but feel sorry for our children. Money that they had saved during the year for a missionary organisation had been taken along with their dinner money. As it was the last day of term the school children had their Christmas Party cancelled, which for kids was “a big deal.”
That evening the one text of Scripture which came to my heart was John 10:10:
“The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.”
How different the message of the Ministry of the Church is to the work of the thief! He came to rampage, to wreck, to steal and we know that thieves on occasions break in and murder. The Church preaches Christ who came to give life.
At Christmas time we reflect on the one whom we represent – Christ who came to a dark world as the only light, who today is our only hope.
It has turned out that the suspect is a man, the same age as myself. We were born the same year. The path of the thief, whether in this case the suspect or another individual is the perpetrator, is one of wickedness. I am humbled that God has saved me and ordained me to preach this Gospel of Peace and Hope. But by the grace of God I am what I am. Concerning our unwelcome Christmas visitor I cannot help but think, ‘There go I but by the grace of God.’
A Happy Peaceful Christmas to one and all.
I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.