My dear friends
The Countdown to Christmas has truly begun, shops are bursting with good – cards, gifts, food, decorations etc, even the emotional TV adverts tugging at your heartstrings in your own living rooms, all try and tempt you to ‘buy into’ Christmas, but is that really what it is about? How far is this removed from who and what Christmas is or should be about, namely Christ and his coming into the world as one of us. He was and is, God’s Son and yet, there was no ring of steel around his visit to earth, and the only pomp and ceremony was the announcement of his birth by a host of angels and the arrival of wise men from the east, who more than likely, were educated and could travel, no mean feat in those days, so likely to have money but we’re not really told. But to the majority his arrival went relatively unnoticed and you have to ask has anything really changed? He was born to humble hardworking parents who were obedient to God and trusted in Him, not in a hygienic hospital ward but in a dirty, smelly animal shed, and his cot was a feeding trough. No heads of state sent messages of congratulations or planned state visits but instead men who spent their time walking the countryside, sleeping and eating outdoors as they tended their flocks, and foreigners in a distant land. And yet, this birth is retold year on year throughout not just this land but throughout the world, this birth has had such an impact that we spend thousands celebrating it but is this what he would want? Is this what God had planned? But maybe God didn’t have it planned, Jesus’ arrival just unfolded and was all that could be thought of at the time, so it right that we have and do have all the festivities and celebrations and trimmings now that we do because we need to give it the gravitas such an event warrants, is that it?
A good number of years ago, an advent book I was reading challenged the readers to spend a day at the shops in the run up to Christmas with only a paltry sum of money in your pocket and no food or drink and see what your observations were and are. I did it from around 9.30am til around 4 and had a £1. It was a cold and wet day and for the first couple of hours I was happy to mouch around the shops looking at the gifts, planning what I could give to whom and pledging that I would be back to get them after the experiment was over. Then hunger and thirst began to kick in and a need to sit down but the only places to sit inside were in cafes etc, and I couldn’t afford that, distraction I thought, but the bright lights and the canned carols and the jostling of shoppers had lost its lustre, so I wandered the streets for another couple of hours getting colder and wetter and feeling more and more fed up, I didn’t feel I belonged, I didn’t fit in as I didn’t have the money etc, I felt like I was on the outside looking in.
My back was aching, my stomach was rumbling and it was only 2pm, what was I going to do for another 2 hours? Then I realised at the end of 2 hours, it would be over for me, but what about those for whom this is their life, day in and day out, those who live on the streets, those who have no one to buy a present for or write a card to, those on the outside, who feel like they don’t or can’t buy into Christmas like this? Is this really what Christmas is and is about? Suddenly, the lights and music seemed distasteful and I wanted to be far away, as far away as I could get from all of that, if this was Christmas I wanted no part of it, where people were made to feel isolated and alone, like they didn’t fit in or belong.
I found myself in a small dimly lit church with crib set in its porch, minus Jesus in the manger but this was different, its figures were made from newspaper with no facial features or distinguishing marks, suddenly it all made sense, Christ was born in a stable not by accident but by design, born on the outside, the margins, to show us that this gift was all about love and nothing else, and love doesn’t care if you are rich or poor, homeless or living in a mansion, labels don’t matter, all the trimmings don’t matter, what matters is love, love God had and has for each and every one of us no matter what or who we are, always no matter what we do, say or think and wants our love in return, nothing more, nothing less.
Christmas should be about the message of love by sharing it with anyone and everyone, and not just at Christmas but always. In January we celebrate Epiphany which means showing forth, and that’s exactly what we should do, show forth the love of God as shown through the birth of His son, in the way we live our lives so I hope that this Christmas we will think about that. And in thinking you may want to act, you may want to contribute to our Advent stockings of lunches, you may want to volunteer some time at the Foodbank or visit a neighbour who lives on their own over Christmas, or just simply seal your love into each Christmas card you write or the presents you wrap but commit to making this Christmas and 2016 being primarily about love because Love is what truly makes the world go around.
Wishing all our readers a very happy and blessed Christmas and every blessing for the New Year.
Til next time… Every blessing.