I wonder how many of you are counting the days off on your Advent calendar or candle, looking forward to the big day. Or is your focus on just what you can afford this Christmas, with money tight and the cost of food and gifts ever increasing. You may, of course, not be looking forward to Christmas for various reasons. If that’s the case, you may wish to skip the next paragraph!
I love Christmas! I love the celebration of the Christmas trees we have in our homes, and all the decorations that bring light and festive fun. I love the food we eat as part of our celebrations, but I especially love the joyful coming together, singing Christmas carols that happens in the run-up to the big day. And, of course, I love the peaceful anticipation of Christmas Eve as I set out for church, at a time when I am usually fast asleep!, and the meeting of others who do the same and the celebration of our Holy Communion service. Then I get to be the first person to wish everyone a Happy Christmas on Christmas morning as the clock moves past midnight, and to spend the day with my family and church family – even if it is by video link that I can share time with my son and daughter-in-law, and two grandchildren in Malawi.
Christmas is the season when someone will ask me questions, like …
What’s the big deal about the baby in the manger?
Why is it that we remember the birth of a baby some 2022+ years ago?
What has the birth of Jesus got to do with me?
I might also get asked why Christmas has to be so expensive or extravagant. And I have to agree that it seems to become more and more so. Is it really necessary? Perhaps a simpler Christmas is what we all need. Yes, let’s celebrate, but let’s not go over the top with the amount of food and drink that we buy, which we seem too often to go to waste, or spend more than we can afford on presents. Is this year, the year when we can cut back and focus less on the “got to have” and enjoy the people we can share Christmas with.
For me, Christmas is about Jesus Christ. It’s about the baby born to a couple in circumstances that were not perfect, in a place that had not been prepared for the birth, but which proved good enough and is the centre of our remembering the nativity scene, with animals around and the baby laying in the manger.
Christmas is not all about presents – although I love to give and receive presents. For me, it’s about the presence of Christ. He is always for me and in me. Jesus calls himself Immanuel, which mean’s God with us. In the hassles we face; the challenges of the economy that knock or flatten us; the anxiety we feel – Christ is with us and Christ is for us.
Christmas – the birth of Jesus – shows us something of what God looks like. God, who was prepared to enter our world not like a human, but as a human, in the vulnerability of a baby. The Bible tells us that The Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” Not like a human but as a human! Jesus experienced all that life threw at him when he walked the earth; joy, pain, frustration, sorrow, hassle and frustration. Christmas begins what Easter celebrates; Jesus, born in Bethlehem, came to enable me to take my place at the table. Max Lucado, a Christian writer, puts it like this: Because of Bethlehem, I have a Saviour in heaven. Christmas begins what Easter celebrates. The child in the cradle became the King on the cross.
The heart-shaping promises of Christmas. Long after the guests have left and the carol-singers have gone home and the lights have come down, these promises endure. Perhaps you could use some Christmas, this Christmas?
Christmas is an invitation . . .
Just think about the key people in the Christmas story.
Joseph and Mary – they accepted their predicament and got on with it (Joseph, after asking many questions, Mary in her trusting way). What is your response?
The shepherds were invited to find Jesus, the Saviour of the world, is an unexpected place. Are you prepared to find Jesus in the unexpected places in our world?
Or are you more like the Innkeeper who missed out because he couldn’t make room for Mary and Joseph and Jesus in his life at that time?
Because of Bethlehem. Because of Jesus. We can have hope. He is there for each one of us, if we will let him. He is the gift, so precious, so extravagant, just for you and me. His invitation to us is to accept and receive from him. Jesus Christ, Immanuel, God with us. Not just at Christmas, but all the time.