IT’S CHRISTMAS !
By the time you read this, the Church’s season of Advent will have begun. It is a season of expectation and preparation, as the Church prepares to celebrate the coming of Christ in his incarnation. Or at least, that’s how it should be!!
The reality in our modern world is that Christmas has been commercialised and most of our preparations and expectations are focussed on buying food and presents for families and friends on Christmas Day. No matter how much we might wish it otherwise, I’m sure many of us often feel that Christ is squeezed into a corner of Christmas, somewhere between the extra shifts at work for those of us who work in the retail sector, the children’s school festivities, the arrangements to catch up with family, the dusting off of the decorations, the festive food buying and so on. Having just been given a list of services for our Benefice by my churchwardens, I also feel that this year Christmas is going to be a whole new ball game!!!
There is also another side to Christmas. Whilst the commercial world fills the shops and streets with must-have products, tinsel and lights, many in our communities struggle to afford even the most basic of necessities like food, warmth and shelter, and face a stark choice between going without or getting into debt. Single people, both old and young, can find themselves faced with the prospect of spending Christmas alone without family or friends and for some that makes this season far from the joyful occasion it should be.
So how can we put the Christ back into Christmas? How can we engage both with the world we live in today and also set time aside to focus on the ‘reason for the season’ - Jesus Christ, who came into the world to give us hope and to shine a light through the darkness of the world that will guide us to eternal life?
Personally, I find the ‘apron’ method to be a good one!!! Let me explain! Rumour has it that a certain Susanna Wesley, the mother of John Wesley (the founder of Methodism) and of his hymn-writing brother Charles, had a method of finding time alone with God despite having 19 (yes, 19!) children. When Susanna wanted to pray she would put her apron over her head wherever she was and that was a signal to her children that she was spending time alone with God and that nothing, other than a life or death situation, should interrupt her! Now just in case you are thinking that I routinely wander around blinded by my pinny, I don’t quite do that!! When life gets chaotic and I find that God is getting squeezed out by ‘stuff’, I seek out a tiny patch of space...maybe in my car, or putting the rubbish out (my kids NEVER join me there!) or even in the only room in the house with a lock on the door (you KNOW what room that is!!) and I just stop for a moment or two and ask God to help me focus on what’s important. It is amazing what God can do in a few seconds!!
A wise Priest once told me that our expectations are often met so if we expect to see Christmas overtaken by the commercial sector then that will probably be the case. If, however, we expect to encounter God right in the midst of all the busy-ness of this world then that too is exactly what will happen. So I challenge us all to find a new way to engage with Christ this Christmas, to find time alone with God and allow him to renew in us a sense of hope and expectation that goes beyond the tinsel and the turkey and illuminates a path that will allow each one of us to reflect Christ’s light into the world we live in.
Wishing you all a very Happy Christmas and New Year.
With love - Ginni