Gwydyr Rd, Crieff, UK, PH7 4BS

Dear friends,
It’s been snowing for a few days in Auchtermuchty, but we have a warm dry house, thanks to the good insulation in our newly renovated home and a useful connection to the national power grid. Fortunately our family is protected from the winter elements. Five decades ago life would have been much colder and damper in our old whinstone home. In 2004 we visited a reconstructed Scottish black house (taigh dubh) in the highlands. These single storey, stone-and-thatch buildings were the homes of rural Scots for hundreds of years. In the winter, the open peat fire burned around the clock to keep the home from freezing. There was no chimney, so the acrid smoke drifted up to the rafters and eventually through the straw of the thatched roof. There was a peat fire burning when we visited and I found myself bending down to avoid the thickest smoke. When it was cold, the cattle where brought into the byre or barn in the lowest part of the house and their body heat provided an early and very eco-friendly form of central heating! Their manure added another potent smell to the heavy, stifling atmosphere, and a degree or two of extra heat as a bonus.
The byre where Jesus was born was possibly as dark and smelly as an old black house. Can you begin to imagine what it was like for Jesus, the Son of God, to take his first breath in a place like this? Can you imagine what it was like for Mary to give birth in an animal shed? It is unlikely that Jesus was born in December, as the sheep were still in Bethlehem’s fields, but the barn could well have been chilly and damp.
Jesus chose to come and experience the normal hardships of traditional rural societies. Our Lord could have chosen a more comfortable and attractive birthplace, but he wanted to identify with needy, homeless and deprived people, throughout the world and down through the centuries.
The poor matter to God. At this time of year we are reminded of God’s generosity in giving up so much to save our world.  Living in a time and place where we experience relative riches and comfort, it is our responsibility and privilege to reach out and share what we have with those who have less than us. When we connect with God’s heart for hurting, hungry and homeless people, he gives us compassion, and inspires our creative generosity. Through his love, we are called to give our money to the poor, our time to the lonely and our worship to the Saviour of the world. Paul says, ‘As God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.’ Col 3:12
When we sit in our warm houses with our plates of food and water in the tap, we can thank God for all the blessings he has provided for us. List them all. Count them one by one, and it will surprise you what the Lord has done, and what he will continue to do.
May God be with you as you enter into a very blessed new year!

Pastor Bernie