Article 30 : Letters from the desk of a Great-Grandfather
TIS THE SEASON TO BE JOLLY ......... CAREFUL!
Our Prime Minister summed up the situation as we come into a Christmas like no other we have ever experienced. To call it different is stating the obvious, with no Midnight Mass, Carol Service or Nativity Play. That's a shame because a recent survey suggested that the children chosen to play Mary and Joseph were the most likely among their peers to be socially and financially successful. Is that down to a "stable" upbringing? We are still in a year of plague and universal bereavement in which many have lost loved ones, or health, or even faced financial disaster. We may all be in different boats but we're all in the same storm. A rising sense of injustice has fuelled the search for a scapegoat, bringing Boris, Rishi or Matt into the dock. But they were faced with an unprecedented situation impossible to win. Who'd be a PM?
But Christmas is still all about gifts and giving. Once again, even this year, the nation has gone on a spending spree, spending what it can't afford on presents not needed or even wanted. And Christ is lost in the shuffle of currency and the ringing of tills. After all, if you take Christ out of Christmas, all that is left is M and S!
But giving isn't necessarily a bad thing. It can and should be the tangible proof of the love we profess. Love is like faith. Without deeds it's only words. We can give without loving but we cannot love without giving.
God started it anyway. We love because he first loved us, and he GAVE. Romans 5v8 (my first ever preaching text in 1957) says that God has demonstrated his love for us in that Christ died for us while we were sinners and his enemies. Perhaps the best known verse in Scripture, John 3v16, declares that God loved people so much that he gave his Son. This is what we really celebrate and remember at Christmas.
It was the greatest miracle of all, unprecedented and unrepeatable, and quite beyond our understanding. The concept of our infinite and yet somehow expanding universe is too big for our minds. Yet even more incredible is the belief that God who created, inhabits and rules every farthest part of the universe should for a short time be compressed into a human being. How can this be? "Our God, contracted to a span, incomprehensibly made man!" Almighty, but briefly becoming a tiny, vulnerable baby, totally dependent on others for care and survival. Now that's awesome!
Cradled in that manger at Bethlehem on that first Christmas morning were all the hopes and dreams of a dying world. Those little hands which clasped the straw were soon to open blind eyes, unstop deaf ears, still the troubled seas. That cooing voice was soon to be lifted to command demons to depart, teach men and women the way of life and raise the dead. Those tiny feet were to take him to the sick and needy and finally to be pierced on the cross at Calvary. From that manger came a man who not only taught us a new way of life, but also brought us into a new relationship with our Creator.
For 30 years or so, God became a man, and more than just a man, for "all of God's fulness was in him." He was the exact image of the invisible God. And from that moment, everything changed. He brought light and hope into a dark and despairing world. He went through the humiliation of human birth and the agony of crucifixion, tasting death for us all. That's how far love was prepared to go.
And he did it for me. For you. For everyone.
"And is it true? And is it true,
This most tremendous tale of all,
Seen in a stained glass window's hue
A baby in an ox's stall?
The Maker of the stars and sea
Became a Child on earth for me?"
Yes it is! Impossibly! Incredibly! Gloriously! Who could imagine that a filthy stable could become such a wondrous place, the focus of the whole world?
So how do we respond? With a gift? Of what?
"What can I give him, poor as I am?
If I were a shepherd I would bring a lamb.
If I were a wise man, I would do my part.
Yet what I can I give him. Give my heart."
Again. And again. And again. And as often as necessary, year by year, day by day. Not only Christmas by Christmas.
Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!
TIS THE SEASON TO BE JOLLY ......... GRATEFUL !
Stay careful! Stay thankful! Stay grateful!