A message that lasts for the whole year

Morpeth Rotary Club, carols at the end led by Michael Gaunt on keyboard and members with the most tuneful voices.
Morpeth Rotary Club, carols at the end led by Michael Gaunt on keyboard and members with the most tuneful voices.

Morpeth Rotary Club

Mayor of Morpeth Andrew Tebbutt was guest of honour for the Christmas message meeting of Morpeth Rotary Club. Other Rotary guests and friends more than doubled the usual turnout, with about 60 at the meal.

The Mayor confessed that he had been born in Bedford and that in spite of having lived in Morpeth for 32 years, he would never have the honour of being a Morpethian.

He has been proud and pleased to serve the town and will reach his 70th birthday while he is Mayor. He was happy to be associated with the strong values of community commitment shown by Rotary. He wished everyone a happy Christmas and a prosperous New Year.

Following a Christmas dinner, friends and guests were welcomed by Rotary President Paul Crook. The Christmas message was given by member the Rev Malcolm Thomas, who was introduced by the Morpeth Gadgy Alex Swailes.

Malcolm is from South Wales, from a Pentecostal background, and had worked across Europe, especially Estonia.

Before starting, he invited a guest from Newton-on-the-Moor to get people in the mood by reciting her amusing poem Christmas...Ugh.

He said that the golden age for carols was around the mid 1700s when God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen, The First Nowell and Hark the Herald Angels Sing became popular.

Another wave of carols and Christmas songs came from the United States in the first half of the 20th century, for example Fred Cootes and Haven Gillhespie wrote You Better Watch Out, which was broadcast on Eddie Cantor’s Music Show in 1934. About 100,000 copies of the sheet music were sold the next day.

A common question among parents at the school gates at this time of year is ‘Are you ready for Christmas?’ Whatever the answer, we know that everything will be sorted by December 25.

Malcolm was brought up in the Welsh valleys and as a child at Christmas he noticed strange and unusual things appearing in the house, like tangerines, figs and nutcrackers. They were not especially exciting to a ten-year-old, but others like chocolate and Turkish Delight were.

Decorations were brought out of the loft, with folded bells and Chinese lanterns that had to be pulled into shape. There were strings of lights all over the floor, and even though Dad was a colliery electrician, there was always one bulb that was not tight enough.

Two days before Christmas an auntie brought round two enormous plates, one for chicken and one for pork.

It is always good to be ready and have a plan in place, but what are we planning for?

Who is the central figure of Christmas? Is it Santa Claus, a portly old man who operates a multi-million pound distribution service for presents? The qualification for receiving a present from Santa is based on behaviour and performance throughout the year.

Is God making a similar list, checking on moves and motivation throughout the year? Will his treatment of you depend on this list, with love and good things from God only when you obey him?

We usually make our own list. We compare ourselves with other people and say “compared to other people I am not too bad”.

God wants you to compare yourself to Jesus, the best person who ever lived. We fail to love God and to love others as ourselves and become separated from God, but because of his great love for us he has given us the greatest gift ever. He sent his son to earth with a purpose. His death on the cross has made us blameless.

It is the grace of God that saves us, not our own performance. God is giving us what we don’t deserve. He is giving us salvation by his grace.

Santa Claus is a fable. Have yourself a merry little Christmas is an idea people will have for the week. The thinking is that one more present, one more drink or one more credit card is all that is needed to put your troubles out of sight. The reality is that your troubles will still be there in January, but so is Jesus.

Malcolm’s view is that the whole story of the birth of Jesus is true, including the Virgin birth and the angels. This birth is the start of the real life of Jesus that went on for 33 years, followed by his death and resurrection.

When it gets to January and our troubles have not gone away, Jesus is still there for us and always will be.

In the Christmas story, Simeon was an old man who had been waiting for Jesus to come all of his life and he has now seen him as a baby.

Jesus is not just a baby, but someone who dies on the cross for you and makes you blameless. That is the story that makes a difference to our lives and our friends and family at Christmas.

Christ wants us to give him our hearts and love him. In the words of the carol: “O holy Child of Bethlehem, Descend to us, we pray, Cast out our sin and enter in, Be born in us today, We hear the Christmas angels, The great glad tidings tell, O come to us, abide with us, Our Lord Emanuel.”

We need to say that as a pledge for he gives us the grace of salvation.

Malcolm wished everyone a merry Christmas in Welsh and English.

This was a signal to hand out the carol sheets for five old favourites, led by Michael Gaunt on keyboard and the more confident and tuneful of the Rotary voices.

President Paul declared that the raffle had raised £327 towards a Shelterbox that can be used in an emergency situation anywhere in the world, and raised the final toast to ‘Rotary the World Over’.