A celebration of the spirit of Christmas will be held in Sunderland...
"I bring you the most joyful news ever announced, and it is for everyone!" *
If you have ever played the angel in a nativity play, you will have said those words, or something very like them. Announcing, not just good news, but the greatest news ever - the birth of Jesus, the birth of the saviour.
It is wonderful to be able to give good news to people. To tell some-one that they have been accepted for a job they really wanted. To tell some-one that their calling has been affirmed. To share the news that a couple are to be married. To share the news that a child has been born.
Yesterday I was watching the trailer for the film, The Theory of Everything" which is being released in the UK in January. It is an account of the life of Stephen Hawking, the well-known theoretical-physicist who wrote the must-have book "A Brief History of Time" which decorated many coffee tables in the 1990s.
Stephen Hawking lives with ALS, a degenerative motor neurone disease. He is now almost completely paralysed. He was diagnosed with ALS while at university and, in the film there is a brief exchange between the doctor and the young Stephen Hawking. The doctor tells him that he has ALS and what that will mean. Stephen Hawking then says, "The brain, what about the brain?" and the answer is "The brain is not affected. Your thoughts won't change, it's just no-one will know what they are." Stephen Hawking is still able to communicate his thoughts with the aid of advanced and expensive technology, because not to communicate his ideas would be unbearable for him and a loss for the world. Important ideas and insights are to be shared - or they die unnoticed.
And the angels said, "I bring you the most joyful news ever announced."
At Christmas we sing of tidings of great joy.
We sing of the baby born in Bethlehem.
We sing of the birth of the saviour.
We sing of good news for all people.
The news is just too good, too important to be kept to ourselves.
It is not enough to know about it, we have to share it.
We have to share it through our words, through our actions, through our very being.
We have to share it with family and friends, with neighbours and colleagues.
We have to share it with those who have never heard it before.
Thomas Herbert O'Driscoll writes these beautiful words in the final verse of his hymn "Sing of a God in majestic divinity"
Sing of this God who in glory and mystery
chooses to lie in humanity's womb,
enters the prison and pain of our history,
rises triumphant and opens the tomb.
This news has to be shared.
Will you share the good news this Christmas, and throughout the year? Will you sing it, shout it, whisper it and live it? It is too important to let yourself be silenced.
Have a blessed and happy Christmas and share the good news!
* Luke 2:10, Living Bible
Revd Ruth Gee, Chair of the Darlington Methodist District and ex President of Conference