01344 761050 St Sebastian's Church Office office@stsebastians.org.uk

Dear Friends,

Charles Dickens cited in “A Christmas Carol”, “I will honour Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all year long.” 

Peter Marshall once cited: “May we not ‘spend’ Christmas or ‘observe’ Christmas, but rather ‘keep’ it.”   Isn’t it so tempting to be caught up in the preparations of Christmas or observe Christmas that we miss the reason we ‘keep’ Christmas?

We keep Christmas as a marker and reminder of peace and goodwill not just of the holiday season but in perpetual goodwill with, for example, our loved ones, family, neighbours, community, schools and church.   After all, the most important two commandments in the Bible are summarised from the 12th chapter of Mark’s Gospel to: “Love God and Others!”   The impact of this goodwill would be immeasurable – reaching beyond the boundaries of our towns, villages and nation if we are open to doing something new.  The journey begins with a greater self-awareness of Christmas from within the heart of God

This “continual Christmas” reminds us that we live out these behaviours daily to become the shop window of our faith in Jesus Christ.  Christmas is the portable life-giving attitude for taking anywhere on this practical road of life.   Mary Ellen Chase shared: “Christmas is not a date, it is a state of mind,” words which echo a frequent personal challenge to me of my faith expression and self-awareness.  I believe these words also apply to us.

The Global Peace Index (GPI) of the Institute of Economics and Peace ranks 163 independent states and territories comprising 99.7 per cent of the world’s population.  GPI uses 23 qualitative and quantitative indicators from highly respected sources and measures the state of peace across three domains: the level of Societal Safety and Security; the extent of Ongoing Domestic and International Conflict; and the degree of Militarisation.

This year’s results (2023) found that the average level of global peacefulness deteriorated by 0.42 per cent. This is the thirteenth deterioration in peacefulness in the last fifteen years, with 84 countries improving and 79 deteriorating in peacefulness.   I suspect that deterioration would have been greater were the recent Israel War with Hamas in Gaza included. What the above data suggests is that there remains more work to do by us as a Christian community in promoting peace beginning in our community as well as prayers for events beyond our nation.   We become part of the solution here in this Parish.   We become peacemakers and share this peace with others by our actions and use words, if necessary!

According to the 5th chapter of Matthew’s Gospel, “God blesses those who work for peace, for they will be called the children of God.”  And this remains within our grasp – to become peacemakers in Wokingham, Bracknell and other neighbouring towns and villages after finding peace in God and making a lasting impact.

On the 25th day of this month, December, we celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ.  This wonderful mystery of God’s dwelling among us in the fullness of humanity as Immanuel, historically foretold by the Old Testament Prophet, Isaiah, (7th chapter) and born of Mary.   I quote: “Look! The virgin will conceive a child! She will give birth to a son and will call him Immanuel (which means ‘God is with us’)”.    Also known as the Lord, the Messiah, the Saviour of the world, “He is recognised as a baby lying in a manger and wrapped snuggly in strips of cloth”, according to the 7th chapter of Luke’s Gospel.   “He was the light for people who walked in darkness, a light that shined on all where death casts its shadow, and He is the light of the world” (Isaiah 9th chapter).

Christmas is thus a timely reminder that we are not just celebrating the birth of Christ but the enduring outcome of His humanity in the last three years of His life, which reached the outer limits of earth over 2,000 years to date.  And the words of Jesus are still impacting the lives of many.  Permit me to share for reflection Oren Arnold’s poem about “Christmas Gift suggestions”:

To your enemy, forgiveness.

To an opponent, tolerance.

To a friend, your heart.

To a customer, service.

To all, charity.

To every child, a good example.

To yourself, respect.

 I do hope that you take the time to join us in one or more of our Christmas Services at St Sebastian’s celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ (see list of services in this website’s calendar).

On behalf of our Parish, may I wish you and your families:  peace, goodwill and love this Christmas season and a new year of blessings.

With love

Reverend Rickey Simpson-Gray
Parish of Wokingham St Sebastian’s



A Christmas Prayer for Peace during December

At this time, when all around us in Wokingham

and elsewhere seems to remind us of what is missing,

we bring our aching hearts and empty spaces to God.

Wherever we know darkness, we pray for new light to shine upon us

at St Sebastian’s and beyond, and to guide us forward, even if with faltering steps.

We hold before God our family and friends of this growing community,

and all who need to know a healing touch in their lives this Christmas time.

You, O God, were born among us as a child.

Remind us that we are all your children, and that those we care for,

on earth and in heaven, are safe with you.

Bless us as we trust that you know our needs,

and hear our every thought and prayer.

Help us to share with you our good days and our bad,

and to know you walk with us day by day.

Journey with us and with our feelings this Christmas time, O God,

and remind us of your precious gift of love.

As we grieve for ourselves and for one another,

help us to look forward to a time when your peace and joy

may find a home in our hearts and inspire us again for the future.

In the name of the coming Prince of Peace, we pray.