The reason for the season- Christmas Eve musings…

What a strange time of year this is, in years gone by my home would have been full to bursting with people, we’d be making French Onion soup now, for Christmas Eve lunch, a gammon for dinner, we’d be frantically wrapping parcels and hiding them from one another. There’d be comings and goings, and a number of Christmas Services to get to depending on who was doing what and where. It wasn’t all peace and joy though, brining together a number of young adults under one roof when they’d been living independently could be stressful…

In the years before that, when they were smaller, and Christmas gifts were often hand- made, there was a different kind of magic to it all, special films to watch, the mounting excitement for Christmas day, the joy of stuffing stockings, which would usually be opened by 4am while we parents were pretending to sleep…

Before that, I look back over my family Christmases, which were such a mixture, my mum would make elaborate snow scenes, which seemed odd in the hot Far Eastern sun of Kuala Lumpur, then “family” games with my stepfathers family in Essex, and all the oddness between those two…

This year I am alone for Christmas, and while I have three services to lead between now and Christmas morning I don’t mind being alone, it is how life is these days, brokenness is a part of my Christmas story, and no amount of tinsel can cover that, but I will see my grandchildren’s faces as they open gifts, and I will enter into the story of Christmas afresh, for Christmas comes no matter what, for the truth that Christ is with us will break through…

Writing in the Yorkshire Post, Archbishop Stephen Cottrell says this:

I can’t stop thinking about those little boys from Birmingham who fell through the ice and died.And about their families. How hard this Christmas is going to be for them. And that policeman, who tried to save them, who I think might still be in hospital, recovering from hypothermia himself.

And I can’t stop thinking about those terrified, desperate refugees, exploited by wicked and unscrupulous people traffickers, getting into little boats on the northern coast of France to try to cross the channel into this country on bitterly cold nights crossing bitterly cold waters. Last week many had to be saved from those waters. And some drowned.

And these past few evenings, when I’ve taken the dog out for those last necessary things that dogs must do before bedtime, I stand in the cold and think about those who are going to be cold all through the night. Families huddled together in Kyiv or Mariupol. Anxious parents looking for children that won’t be coming home. Homeless people sleeping on the streets. Refugees in little boats.

Brokenness is everywhere, and still Christ comes, and we will tell again the story of extraordinary faith and courage, the faith of the young Mary receiving the angels message, and Joseph too, who hearing an angel in a dream choses to stand by her. The story of a babe born to be king, but not in the richness of a palace, but if far humbler surroundings, and we can argue all we like whether it was an actual stable, a cave, or perhaps the ground floor of a family home where animals would have been kept, it certainly wasn’t luxurious, and even then they would soon be fleeing for their lives, becoming refugees, settling in a far off land.

The story came to Shepherds too, angels again, fearsome beasts for sure, for every time they turn up they begin their messages with the words ” do not be afraid” , were these shepherds really outcasts, considered unclean, and really unacceptable, some commentators say so, others say they were simply decent hardworking folk, rough and ready types, whatever/ whoever they were they weren’t diplomats, maybe they were the Amazon delivery drivers of their day, shop workers, dustmen, all of whom we learned to appreciate during the Covid lockdowns (lest we forget). Maybe all are included, even the stranger and the foreigner in the camp.

That of, course brings us to the strangers, the Magi, the Wise Men, the Kings, foreigners from the East, following star charts, believing in signs and portents, exotic and as odd as their gifts, still they seek out this baby, stumbling into the palace of Herod, before realising their mistake, this new-born king is not what they had expected to find at all.

So there we have it, the humble, story of our celebrations, with its faith-filled heroes, unlikely visitors, odd locations, and angel songs, all topped off by a star. It is a tale of intrigue and violence, of displacement and fear, homelessness and heartache. It wasn’t dressed in tinsel, not lit by the warm glow of candles and stage lighting. The reality and rawness of it should be shocking to us still, it should stir us and discomfort us before it fills us with hope and joy, but fill us with hope and joy it should, because the central character, though he has little to say says everything. This is God who has come among us, God in the young woman’s womb, born into humble circumstances, God carried to Egypt, God hunted for by the murderous Herod, God sharing our life and experience, hope for the hopeless, love for the loveless, God of whom we can sing Tidings of Comfort and Joy!

Whatever your Christmas will look like, whether you are busy or alone this story remains the great gift for you, it can be unwrapped again and again, it will not loose its magic nor its power, it is the reason for the season!

About Sally C

How do I describe myself, I am not what I do, (I am a Methodist Minister), I am not who I am related to (I have 5 wonderful children, 2 lovely granddaughters and a grandson). I am a seeker truth, a partaker of life in all it's fullness and a follower, sometimes stumbling, sometimes celebrating of the Christian pathway. I seek wholeness, joy and a connectedness to all things through a deep reconciliation with the God whose love blows my socks off!
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