Revs Richard's Letter & Peter's Green page

Dear Friends,

I am currently reading a book called ‘Christmas a history’ by Judith Flanders. In this she writes that the rituals of Christmas allow us to believe, if only for a day a year, that a world exists where we are loved, protected and cherished. I believe she is touching on something important in saying that our normal day to day existence does not provide the things we most we long for, but Christmas, unlike anything else, somehow does appear to offer it all, be it temporarily.

In Charles Dickens ‘A Christmas Carol’ Fred tells his Uncle Scrooge something similar about the power of this feast “Although it has never put a scrap of gold or silver in my pocket, I believe that it has done me good, and will do me good, and I say God Bless it!”  No doubt many millions of people feel this way or they wouldn't keep celebrating it year in and year out.

J R Tolkien an academic scholar at Oxford University last century known best for writing The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit, wrote a much less well known book called ‘Tree and Leaf’. In this book he wrote about the importance of fairy tales, he says that this genre expresses our belief in how things should be. 

Many stories and films follow the fairy tale genre but the Christmas story does so on a scale that most other stories fail to reach. It is a story about individuals but is also universal in its scope. Involved are lowly shepherds to Kings and Emperors, and a poor baby is born in order to save mankind from all ultimate harm in every age. It is about all conquering love coming down to us individuals. No wonder people can escape into these themes.

However Tolkien takes this further and argues that our belief that this is how things should be, is actually an indication that it is how things will turn out to be. He argues that in the Christian story, myth (what we long for) and history have combined.  Arguing that it ‘has pre-eminently the inner consistency of reality’.

It seems to me the main reason that Christmas is so wonderful is not just because it is based around such a good story about how things should be, but because it is actually true and offers us through the birth of Jesus the gift of himself, not just to be with us at Christmas but also throughout the year in order that we be loved, protected and cherished.

May you have a wonderful Christmas. 

Richard Steven

A Christmas Blessing Prayer for you

May you be filled with the wonder of Mary, the obedience of Joseph, the joy of the angels, the eagerness of the shepherds, the determination of the magi, and the peace of the Christ child. Almighty God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit bless you now and forever. Amen

Trees, the Climate, the Bible and Jesus

The fact that trees are the easiest and cheapest way to combat Climate Chaos is now common knowledge. Trees take in C02 and give out oxygen, the cheapest climate change solution. In a rapidly changing climate tree planting would have near-immediate results, as trees remove more carbon when they are younger. 

It is not surprising then that trees are mentioned in the Bible more than any living thing other than God and people. In fact there are more than 36 trees mentioned in the Bible. There is a tree on the first page of Genesis, in the first Psalm, on the first page of the New Testament, and the last page of Revelation. Every major event in the Bible has a tree marking the spot to tell us just how important they are.

Jesus said he is the true vine and that his Father is the dresser of the garden. The Bible refers to itself as a Tree of Life. We are told to be like trees planted by streams of water that yield their fruit in season. Trees are as essential to the Bible as they are essential to life.

If, in some Mad Max world, trees disappeared overnight, so would much of the planet’s life, including us. Habitat loss is the main reason for worldwide extinction. So the destruction of much of the worlds remaining forests is a total disaster.

Even in our part of the country, wildlife depends on single trees and copses as well as the more densely wooded areas. Even a single tree in the open can attract and provide resources for animals and plants. So the loss of just one tree locally can have an effect far greater than may be imagined. 

The first tree mentioned in the Bible is the Tree of Life. Indeed, life on Earth depends on trees for oxygen, fruits, wood, water, medicines and soil nutrients. And, of course, there is the animal and insect life that relies upon them. Every single part of a tree, from its topmost leaf to its deepest roots is life-giving.   

The last tree mentioned is in Revelation. “On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations.” The Greek word translated ‘healing’ in this verse (therapeia) is the source for the English word ‘therapy,’ so the leaves of the tree will be therapy of the nations in the new earth. 

This suggests that the leaves are not necessarily for physical healing, but rather a therapeutic, inner healing of the ethnic/racial divisions that have divided nations and people for centuries, resulting in wars, civil wars, abuse and carnage. From the beginning of the Bible to the end of the Bible, trees give life and healing, the very things that Christ gave His life for. Trees still give life and healing today and I am sure that creation groans as it sees the destruction of the forests. Can you plant a tree?

Rev Peter