Although as I write these reflections it is only the beginning of November, I am already unable to escape the constant reminders that we’re into the countdown to Christmas, that great annual commercial bonanza. In the shops, on television, in magazines and through the post, we face a continual bombardment of what we really must buy if we are to make Christmas that special occasion that everyone now expects and are not to be seen as a failure as a partner, a parent or a grandparent. The commercialism of Christmas puts a huge pressure on many of us and this year, perhaps more than ever, that pressure is likely to be even greater as costs go on rising faster than wages or pensions. Budgets that are already stretched are likely to be endangered further and I am sure it is no coincidence that adverts about loans as a way to spread the cost of Christmas are proliferating.
I am sure we need a time of celebration in the darkest days of winter and it was no coincidence that a pagan midwinter festival was Christianised in the fourth century as a time to celebrate the birth of Jesus. But, in our materialistic, consumerist world, these facts are often forgotten and for many people Christmas is just a name for this winter festival.
As we prepare for Christmas I think it is important that, as Christians, we try to take time to reflect on the Christmas story and what it says to us for today. When the wise men followed the star and searched for the special baby, they expected to find him in a palace. But, the child was born in a cave where the cattle were housed. His parents were homeless refugees, surviving in difficult circumstances. We believe that this was God’s Son and that by becoming one of us God shows his great love for us but also his desire to come closer to us. In this choice though, God shows his bias for the poor. He cares about the disadvantaged, the homeless, the lonely, those who live on the margins of society. And if they’re that important to God, surely we should be concerned about them too and should try to find ways to show them our love and support. It may be by putting a few more items in the Night Stop box in church or by making a donation to a charity. It may be by taking time to call on someone who lives alone and who will be alone this Christmas.
For me, Christmas is also a time to remember the important things of life - our many blessings, including our family and friends. It can be a magical time for children and this year, all being well, all my grandchildren will be here for Christmas, which will be great fun. But, I am also aware that not everyone looks forward to Christmas and for some it can be a difficult time and we are mindful of them.
We hope that as we celebrate Christmas many of you will join us for one of our services. The Carol Service on Sunday 22nd sing those favourite carols and to hear again the Christmas story. The Christingle Service on Christmas Eve is always a special family occasion that many look forward to. But so is our family worship on Christmas morning. At that service it’s exciting to see the gifts that others have received so I hope you’ll bring one of yours on December provides an opportunity to Christmas morning to show us all.
I wish you all a very Happy and Joyful Christmas and a prosperous New Year.