This year, as I begin to think about Christmas, I find myself reflecting on the common theme of giving. We all know that Christmas Day is the day we have established to remember the gift of Jesus, and on Epiphany, 12 days later, we choose to remember the gifts brought by the Magi. Each of these acts of generosity has an impact on our understanding of a Trinitarian God who sent his Son as a priestly King, destined to die for the salvation of the world.
As daily we accept this gift of a suffering Saviour, we are challenged to respond not only to his call of salvation, but in turn to a lifestyle that reflects this sacrificial generosity. Will we choose a path of generosity that includes personal suffering or do we place a discomfort limit on how generous we are willing to be?
This year as a Baptist Union of Scotland, we have received a gift from the wider Baptist family in Great Britain of over 30 million pounds which will significantly reduce the pension debt of our churches. This vast sum cannot be raised without sacrifice, and has been given freely as a long term commitment to the mission and ministry of our Baptist family. On a more personal level, I am giving thanks for those in the Northumbria Community who opened their community house to me as a space for prayer and reflection which deeply impacted my personal relationship with Christ, my wonderful counsellor.
I give thanks for those churches in our Union who gave what was asked, and for those whose generosity far exceeded that which was expected. I give thanks for office staff who, at various points in the year, stepped up and went beyond their obligations to enable the smooth running of our Union. I also find myself giving thanks for the generosity of encouragement from those who walk closely with us in ministry and ensure that the pressure we all feel is dissipated with appreciation.
In this past year, I have been overwhelmed at times by the generous spirit of our churches towards their communities. The growth in community service observed in recent years is a witness within our nation to the thankfulness of Christ’s followers for the love they have received.
However, I recognise my own weakness in this area and the tendency towards selfishness and meanness. It is at these times that the liberality of others around me is vital to my ongoing generosity. Therefore, as an encouragement to continue our generosity, I have invited 12 of our grant receiving churches to tell their stories of how they have shared your open-handedness with their local communities. Over the Twelve Days of Christmas, beginning on Christmas Day, we will be releasing a daily video on Facebook, capturing the stories of how our shared giving has blessed 12 churches. This is just a sample of the generosity offered freely among us, but I hope it will remind us of the joy of sharing generously in the ministry and mission of other churches across the nation, and that it will inspire that generosity to be a mark of our 150th year as a Union.