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Letter from the Rector - December 2019

Christmas is just for Kids?!

“Christmas is just for kids!” said I, as I began my first sermon whilst training for ministry. I went on to explain, to the congregation I was on placement with, why this was not true, and exactly why Christmas is just as much for grown-ups, as for our children.

I don’t have a copy of that sermon any more, but I imagine explaining that the message of Christmas, the message of Incarnation, is of profound importance for all of humanity, and for all of time. We learn that God took on our humanity, that we might take on his divinity. It is this pivotal moment in salvation history that sets us free, free to receive eternal life, life in all its fullness. Here, then, is not a festival just for children but a festival that points forward, in a very serious way, to Easter and to Pentecost.

As I shook hands at the door at the end of that service, one of the lovely ladies who had made me feel very welcome in her church, said, “You’re so right, vicar, Christmas is just for kids.” At which I was flabbergasted – had she not listened to anything I had said in my 10-minute sermon?

On reflection, however, many years later and now a father of two, I understand. The lady who hadn’t listened to a word I had said in my sermon nonetheless had a point. Christmas is special for children, in a way that it simply isn’t special for grown-ups. Sharing Christmas with children makes Christmas special once again, in a way we struggle to achieve without them.

Jesus said, “Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven.” What Jesus is trying to tell us is that we need to learn from how children see the world if we are to understand our faith and engage with our God. Or to put it another way, Christmas is for those who have not forgotten what it means to be a child of God.

So, as you prepare for the festive celebrations once again this year, give yourself permission to engage with Christmas as a child does: with eager anticipation, in awe and wonder, and with excitement and joy. And in all these things, may you experience His birth afresh, receiving all the blessings of our God, who shared in our humanity, that we might share in his divinity.

Yours in Christ,
Revd Canon Howard Gilbert.