A message from Rev. Roshan Mendis of St. Andrew’s Scots Kirk
Christmas is upon us! That magical time of year when most of us tend to take a break to spend time with those in our lives we hold most dear, and of course, for those who celebrate to mark the birth of Jesus Christ.
The Sunday Morning Brunch reached out to newly-appointed Locum Minister of St. Andrew’s Scots Kirk Rev. Roshan Mendis for a few thoughts on the spirit of Christmas. A few months ago, Rev. Mendis made history as the first Sri Lankan to be appointed Locum Minister of St. Andrew’s Scots Kirk, the almost fairytale-looking church that sits on the Galle Road in between the Cinnamon Grand Colombo and the Galle Face Hotel.
Having first felt a deep calling to his faith at the age of 13 and going to pursue theological studies in Australia, Rev. Mendis returned to Sri Lanka and served the Dutch Reformed Church as a Minister for 23 years. He has also been on the Board of Governors of Methodist College and the Colombo Theological College and on the Executive Committee of the Evangelical Alliance of Sri Lanka and the National Christian Council.
In 2013, he resigned as a Minister to join his alma mater S. Thomas’ College, Mount Lavinia. In 2015, he was appointed as the Associate Chaplain of the school. Prior to his appointment as Locum Minister, Rev. Mendis had been helping St. Andrew’s Scots Kirk in the absence of a resident minister.
The meaning of Christmas
Speaking to Brunch on the meaning of Christmas, Rev. Mendis highlighted that both Christians and non-Christians could often forget the significance of what Christmas really meant because of the commercialisation that had taken over the occasion.
“There’s nothing wrong with enjoying and celebrating, but sometimes it can be like celebrating someone’s birthday at our home while the birthday child is missing but everyone is having a gala time,” Rev. Mendis said, adding that true Christmas was far from lavish, with just Mary, Joseph, and baby Jesus, and that especially given the struggles of the last few years, how people viewed and celebrated Christmas would evolve.
In a message for this year’s celebration of Christmas, Rev. Mendis spoke about one of the other names given to Jesus by the Prophet Isaiah over 700 years ago; Emmanuel, which translates to ‘God with us’.
“As a country, Sri Lanka has been through tough situations in different scenarios, from the Easter bombings to the current crisis. Amidst everything Sri Lanka has been through this year and with so many struggling to make ends meet and young people wondering if there is a future for them here, it’s important and comforting to remember that God is with us, not just on the mountaintops when we are happy and celebrating, but also down in the valleys.”
Of course, this Christmas, more than any other, with so many going without, we are each aware of what a privilege it is to be able to celebrate.
This Christmas marks Rev. Mendis’s first as Locum Minister of St. Andrew’s Scots Kirk, and for him, this Chrisatmas is special because it is the first in years that doesn’t see restrictions to congregation size resulting from Covid-19. This year will see St. Andrew’s Scots Kirk hold a full Christmas service again.
Rev. Mendis himself will be leading the midnight mass on Christmas Eve and earlier this month St. Andrew’s Scots Kirk held its Christmas carol service with over 250 people attending.
“We have cancelled our Christmas party and other things like that this year because we understand that people are suffering,” Rev. Mendis explained, adding that
St. Andrew’s Scots Kirk had launched a ‘feeding the hungry’ project in response to the crisis, which fed over 30 families from the surrounding community (both Christian and non-Christian) once a week.
“We also had a small Christmas party for them, focusing more on Christmas itself. It’s important to be mindful that there are so many people who don’t enjoy the same Christmas that we do.”