Christmas Message

Dear friends,

Advent is upon us. Some folk are talking about a ‘normal’ Christmas to come. I’m wondering if there is, or even if there should be, any such thing.

After all, we will be celebrating a birth which none of us would look on as run of the mill. The parents were far from home and soon to flee for their lives to an uncertain welcome in a country of which they knew nothing. Something that is way beyond our experience, but all too familiar to many round the world today.

We will also be celebrating the birth of change. The promise of a new era, bringing the raising up of the poor and the putting down of the rich. In our celebrations we often underline that we are the rich. So what is it that we hope and expect to come from the birth of this baby?

We are promised a new heavens and a new earth (Revelation 21), but we are also called to work towards this. Towards renewing the earth that we have today. Towards realising the kingdom of God in the everyday.

The danger in making Christmas ‘normal’ is that we get nice and cosy and forget the need for change. It can be too easy to relax into the familiar and dream of a bygone world made rosy through our selective memories.

Jesus didn’t come to make us comfortable. He came to turn our world upside down. This is the baby of whom Simeon said ‘this child is destined for the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that well be opposed so that the inner thoughts of many will be revealed – and a sword will pierce your on soul too’ (Luke 2: 34&35).

We are part of the world’s elite, even if it often doesn’t feel like that. As such and as Christians what changes are we called to make? Mahatma Gandhi put it very well: ‘Live simply so that others may simply live.’

Since our last ‘normal’ Christmas, many things have changed. I want to home in on two. Firstly, the Covid pandemic. This has brought many lessons, but one of the most important has been the underlining of what really matters to each of us including the centrality of things we have taken for granted like family, friends, hugs, meeting up and getting out into nature. Another has been to underline the way in which we rely on each other – from our dependence on key workers, to the need for everyone to follow ‘rules’ to save others, to the way in which our whole world is interrelated.

Secondly Cop26 and all the reflection leading up to it has once again underlined the need for change to save our planet – this wonderful world that God has created and which we are in danger of damaging beyond repair. This encourages us to live simply and carefully to save our planet from the ravages of climate change.

Together the pandemic and Cop26 remind us that we can live more simply and hold onto what is most important in our lives and probably end up all the richer (in the non-monetary sense) for it.

So let’s celebrate this Christmas. Let’s celebrate gently and warmly. Let’s not wait for the New Year to make some resolutions that we will have forgotten before the middle of January. Let’s make them part of our celebration of the birth of the bringer of change. Let’s be deliberate in making Christmas different this year and every year to come as we work towards God’s kingdom coming here on earth for everyone.

Merry Christmas!