(Excerpt from December’s Parish Chronicle)
Is it possible that in three weeks we will be celebrating Christmas? I expect many of you are caught up in the frenzy of preparation that goes with the season. The shopping, food preparation, and getting ready perhaps to welcome visitors. While others may be more concerned about the forthcoming holiday time because of the disruption in your usual routine or because you will be spending most of it alone.
However you spend Christmas it is not without some stress as indeed it was for Mary and Joseph at that first Christmas. Mary, a very young heavily pregnant girl, who has conceived her baby in strange and wondrous circumstances, having to travel a long arduous journey with Joseph to be registered according to the Emperor’s decree. And when they reach their destination there is nowhere for them to stay. Finally finding a stable to shelter in Mary has her baby with, we assume, only Joseph to help. While still recovering from all of this a group of smelly shepherds arrive directly from the hillsides where they have been with their sheep – sent by angels, they say, to worship her baby. Who would not feel stressed? But you will remember in Luke’s gospel it is written that Mary treasured all that she had heard and “pondered the words in her heart”. (Luke 2:19) She put her trust in God to guide her, whatever the future held.
Christmas is one of the Christian world’s major festivals where we remember God’s amazing gift to us, God made man in Jesus. The Word made flesh to live amongst us and share our human joys and sufferings. To bring the assurance of God’s love and forgiveness for each of us, if we believe and trust in his Word. Something to truly celebrate even if you feel that gift has got lost in the commercialism and gluttony of our age.
If we have tried to keep Advent as a time not just for shopping and eating chocolate, but to draw closer to God through worship, reading and contemplation it will not matter what the rest of the world is celebrating, our hearts and minds will be prepared to receive that gift in the form of a helpless baby needing to be loved and nurtured to survive. God makes himself vulnerable so he can know our vulnerabilities and bring his peace to those things that trouble us and give us stress.
Christmas comes with many expectations: to enjoy time with family and friends, to give and receive presents that will be appreciated, to be happy and free from stress and worry. Not all of these will be met and for some this time will bring more troubles, not less. But if we look into the heart of Christmas and understand fully what God has done for us, however we keep Christmas, we will know the joy and blessings of that first Christmas all over again. We will be able to see beyond the noise and messiness of our lives and look into the eyes of a baby born to bring hope to us and our world. And maybe we can share that joy and hope with those who are not able to find it for themselves. Why not invite them to come to church for one of our services over the Christmas period, where they too can discover God’s love freely given in a very special gift.
Jesus came that we might have life and have it abundantly (John 10:10) I wish you a very happy and peaceful Christmas full of joy and hope.
With love in Christ,
Christmas Services at All Saints
Sunday 4th December, 2nd of Advent
Sunday 11th December, 3rd of Advent
9.30pm Family Praise Toy Service
Sunday 18th December, 4th of Advent
6.00pm CTD Carol Service
Saturday 24th December, Christmas Eve
4.00pm Crib Service
11.15pm Midnight Holy Communion
Sunday 25th December Christmas Day
8.00am Holy Communion
9.30am Family Communion