On 7th December, I had the privilege of attending the Maggie’s Christmas Carol Concert. As I sat enjoying the cornucopia of readings and music, I reflected on the foundation of the charity and on some additional Bible readings that would have suited the occasion well.
For those who have never heard of this charity, Maggie’s Wallace offers a broad range of help and support to cancer sufferers and their families. They can be found at many hospitals around our country – at Addenbrook’s they reside on the (delightfully named) Puddicombe Way. The website for this national charity explains how it all began:
In May 1993, Maggie Keswick Jencks was told that her breast cancer had returned and was given two to three months to live.
She joined an advanced chemotherapy trial and lived for another 18 months. During that time, she and her husband Charles Jencks worked closely with her medical team, which included oncology nurse, Laura Lee, now Maggie’s Chief Executive, to develop a new approach to cancer care.
In order to live more positively with cancer, Maggie and Charles believed you needed information that would allow you to be an informed participant in your medical treatment, stress-reducing strategies, psychological support and the opportunity to meet other people in similar circumstances in a relaxed domestic atmosphere.
Maggie was determined that people should not, ‘lose the joy of living in the fear of dying’.
Two parts of this brief explanation resonated deeply with me. Firstly, it’s good to be ‘an informed participant’ – most especially when facing difficult times.
Jesus graciously invites all who follow Him to take part in the coming of the kingdom. However, He ensured that all who join Him are informed participants in this Divine task. Jesus emphasises that serving Him won’t be an easy or pain-free experience. In Matthew 10 we read His words,
16“Look, I am sending you out as sheep among wolves. So be as shrewd as snakes and harmless as doves. 17But beware! For you will be handed over to the courts and will be flogged with whips in the synagogues. 18You will stand trial before governors and kings because you are my followers. But this will be your opportunity to tell the rulers and other unbelievers about me.” (New Living Translation)
Thankfully, these words of warning are only a small part of the information Christ shares with the participants. The night before His crucifixion, Jesus shared blessed reassurance (John 14):
18No, I will not abandon you as orphans—I will come to you. 19Soon the world will no longer see me, but you will see me. Since I live, you also will live. 20When I am raised to life again, you will know that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you. 21Those who accept my commandments and obey them are the ones who love me. And because they love me, my Father will love them. And I will love them and reveal myself to each of them.” (New Living Translation)
Secondly, we mustn’t ‘lose the joy of living in the fear of dying’.
Jesus spoke often of the joy of life, both physical and eternal. He also encouraged His followers to be more concerned about their relationship with God and less concerned about the hour and manner of their death: “Don’t be afraid of those who want to kill your body; they cannot touch your soul. Fear only God, who can destroy both soul and body in hell.” This prompted lovely displays of faith that have encouraged Christians for centuries. St Paul encapsulated the lack of fear and the abundance of joy in the opening chapter of his letter to the Philippian church:
21For to me, living means living for Christ, and dying is even better. 22But if I live, I can do more fruitful work for Christ. So I really don’t know which is better. 23I’m torn between two desires: I long to go and be with Christ, which would be far better for me. 24But for your sakes, it is better that I continue to live. 25Knowing this, I am convinced that I will remain alive so I can continue to help all of you grow and experience the joy of your faith. (New Living Translation)
I hope that everyone who reads this edition of The Messenger will have a chance to attend a carol service this Christmastime. If you do, why not take a moment to think of a selection of additional readings of your own.
May our wonderful Lord and Saviour bless you richly over the festive season.