This month’s edition is provided by Keith Saynor
Had Basil Fawlty of Fawlty Towers’ fame been in charge of the guest list for Jesus’ first birthday, there is one group of people who would not have been invited. You may remember on the Invitation to the Gourmet Night he held in his Hotel in Torquay he included the words “No riff raff allowed!” If you are aware of cultural standing in Judea all those years ago, you will know that shepherds were the ‘riff raff’ of society in Jesus’ day. They were the invisible lower class and yet these were the folk whom God sent the Angels to (Luke 2:10-12). They were the ones directed to meet Jesus.
The Christmas message is that the good news is for all people; where grace is concerned there are no different classes of people. This fact is both empowering and comforting. All are welcome at the Birthday celebrations. The story is also a prompt to remind us to make room at our tables, and at our celebrations for the ‘Shepherds of Our Community;’ to help others who may be in need this coming year .Whatever your personal circumstances you have the ability to help those around you.
It might be that you take food to the local foodbank, spend some time with someone who has suffered bereavement recently, write an encouraging letter or follow the wonderful example of Samuel Stone. In the weeks before Christmas 1933 an intriguing notice appeared in a local paper in Ohio, USA: ‘Man who felt Depression’s sting to help 75 unfortunate families.’ A Mr B. Virdot promised to send a cheque for the neediest in the community – many were really suffering during the ‘Great Depression’. Application letters flooded in and cheques ranging from five dollars upwards were distributed to houses across the area each signed by Mr Virdot. Strangely, no one knew who he was, and the City Registry held no record of him. Over the years, the story was told but his identity was not discovered until 2008 when his grandson opened an old suitcase and found all the letters dated December 1933 as well as 150 cheque stubs. Mr Virdot was Samuel Stone. His pseudonym was a hybrid of Barbara, Virginia and Dorothy, his three daughters.
Samuel was a Romanian immigrant who grew up in a Pittsburgh ghetto. When the Depression hit, he owned a small chain of clothing stores. He was not affluent or poor, but he was willing to help; someone who through his kindness and generosity helped many other people in his community.
Jesus demonstrated this love on many occasions by the kindness He showed to others. William Penn once said “If there is any act of Kindness I can show, any good thing I can do to any fellow being, let me do it now, and not deter or neglect it, as I shall not pass this way again”. Let me encourage you to love others in our community through acts of kindness; you may be surprised at the impact of your words and actions! There are many in our community who need hope and comfort and we are the ones empowered to help them. People whose lives you touch will be blessed and in doing so, you will be too!
Keith Saynor is the Pastor at Grace Church Caversham