I think we all enjoy receiving a gift to unwrap at Christmas. I include myself in this respect. The greatest gift I am given each Christmas is that, at least once at one of the Christmas services, I have the amazing experience of listening to, or even reading, the first few verses of John’s Gospel.
They are as follows:
‘In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God....What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.’
‘And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth.’
The Word is that tiny baby, Jesus. God made man. Jesus is the light for all people, for everyone.
Christmas is a time when all of creation paused, when heaven met earth. When a baby was born to a young girl in a stable. This is why we celebrate Christmas. God coming to earth in glory as a baby. The shepherds saw the glory of God in that baby, the wise men saw the glory in that same baby.
So we should try to celebrate Christmas with this in mind. Sometimes we may lose sight of the reason for the celebration, of the immense glory, of the light coming into the world. It does take a little effort to find Christian themed Christmas cards. Recently I heard the strap line for a PC World Currys advert ‘we have everything you need for Christmas.’
We should celebrate Christmas in a way that we are comfortable with. This may well exclude any thoughts of Jesus and the incredible gift of love that God gave us of his only Son, that tiny baby in a manger. I hope and pray that this is not so. We may go and help at a homeless shelter. We may have a great party with friends and family. We may spend the time quietly on our own.
But there are many opportunities to come and celebrate Christmas with your friends and neighbours in our churches. When Christmas comes up in conversation people sympathize with me saying it must be a busy time for a priest.
I agree that it is a busy time but I will start celebrating Christmas here in Amberley with the Advent carol service on Sunday 2nd December. I will continue with my celebrations until the 10:00 a.m. service at Amberley on Christmas Day, eight services later. Then I will pause, have a coffee and go for a walk with my wife before enjoying a quiet meal reflecting on the Word made flesh, of creation pausing and of the love that that tiny baby represents, a love that is here for everyone.
Quite a celebration!