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Celebrating Christmas, celebrating Jane

Posted by Lucy Moore on 17 Dec 2020

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One thing about being a Christian that strikes me is that, as we celebrate God’s story, we discover more about how much God celebrates us. And part of what we’re doing in Messy Church is to hold a monthly get-together that says to our families, ‘Look! You matter so much to God and to God’s people that we want to throw a party for you in Jesus’ name, with lovely things to do,  great party rituals and wonderful things to eat! You matter, because Jesus came to earth for you, lived for you, died for you and came back to life for you so you can have the best life possible.’ So I shall light a candle today to celebrate Jesus and his love and life drawing us together, through the light of his Holy Spirit.

I thought it would be fun today to exercise our Messy Church value of CELEBRATION and celebrate the Christmas story as it’s that time of year, but also celebrate someone who’s been a pivotal part of the Messy Church story for a very long time: Messy Jane, of course, who retires from her present role on the BRF team next week.

I was wondering how to link up Messy Jane and the Christmas story until I realised that the most appropriate link is an angelic one. Partly because she’s unstoppably organising an angel trail as we speak, but nice for me too, as my new church is the church of St Michael and all angels and we have some rather fetching carvings of angels in the ceiling.

Let’s have some fun together with five angelic things about Jane. Fingers on the keyboard – think of a time when you’ve been ENCOURAGED by Jane and pop it in the comments while I chat.

Jane is a great encourager. And the first thing Gabriel says to Mary is: ‘Don’t be afraid.’ Jane shares that angelic gift of encouraging – giving people courage – to step out of the limitations imposed by fear and going on adventures they wouldn’t have dared go on without her encouragement. At the Messy Church International Conference 2019, would I have dared include the potentially explosive firepits and whittling of sticks by jet-lagged strangers in the dark with sharp knives without Jane’s encouragement? So many of us have been encouraged by Jane, just as Mary took courage from the angel to step out of her comfort zone.

Fingers on buttons: what other important word can you make from the letters in the word MATES? You might stay ‘steam’ from a kettle and certainly Jane’s predilection for cups of tea in garden centres with Messy mates is well known, but I couldn’t see a link between Gabriel and Dobby’s. But, another rearrangement is TEAMS. The angel seems to show us something about God’s longing for us not to try to do things on our own. Gabriel doesn’t just come to Mary, but drops in on Joseph’s dreams to bring him along onside too. God knew Mary couldn’t do this enormous job on her own, so through the angel, brought along Joseph to give her a hand. Jane, my Messy Mate for ten years, has caught this angelic vision for TEAMS and has done so much to help us all build up great teams in our Messy Churches. It remains a great passion and she’ll be gleefully joining several of the support teams in her retirement and continuing to build teams from her role in the Alongsiders team.

The angels in the Christmas story demonstrate something of God’s care, provision and resourcing of human beings. Look at the way the angel shows God’s care for the wise men after they’ve worshipped Jesus – the angel sends them home a different route to keep them safe from Herod’s machinations. Pop in the comments again a smiley face if you’ve ever benefitted from Jane’s own care pastorally, or from her provision of resources. I’ve listened to her concern for all of you when you’ve been going through rough times. And I’ve seen the amazing way she collates resources to keep all of us provided for, through Pinterest and Facebook especially.

A general knowledge question – fingers on buttons – what animal do you most associate with Jane? Not rocket science: it’s sheep. And the sheep trails have been a way of connecting communities within the real meaning of Christmas. The angel on the hillside outside Bethlehem longed to connect the riff raff shepherds, those dregs of society, to the love of God through the birth of Jesus, a saviour for people on the edge of society. Jane shares that heart too and connects people in all sorts of ways, young and old, those with different gifts with those who have little to share, those who have what another person needs. Like E.M. Forster, I hear her saying in almost every conversation, ‘Only connect.’

And lastly, in the comments, thinking of the skies above the shepherds once the angel had given the message of Jesus’ birth, what is the first word that comes to mind to describe the heavenly host? Well, Jane gathers up a good many of those in her personality, character and ministry. And perhaps we can sum it up by saying she’s someone who pours out glory to God in everything she does to the best of her ability. Glory to God indeed.

And YOU have been celebrating Jane too already! Of course you have. An enormous thank you for your generosity – your gifts are going to enable BRF to make the planned 2022 book called Messy Church Goes Wild much more eco-friendly – Dan is already looking into eco inks, paper and production. When I told Jane on Monday, she was thrilled at the prospect. As she’s writing one of the chapters, it’s an excellently appropriate gift, so thank you all!

And to finish with, some of you from all round the world were kind enough to send in video messages for Jane. She hasn’t seen the result yet, but Adrian at BRF has edited them together into nine minutes of celebration. So I’m going to finish this Facebook Live in a moment, a few minutes early to give you time to enjoy the film. But before we rush off to relish it, let’s pray for Jane and for the families in our Messy Churches, for our teams, for BRF and for each other. Let’s remember the angels worshipping God with us and around us invisibly but gloriously. Let’s pray in the words and actions of the Messy grace, one last time before we meet again in in this space next year.