I know, before the liturgical police bust me, it’s still Advent. But after two Nativity plays, two Carol services and the first Christingle, it’s beginning to feel a lot like Christmas (you can play ‘spot the songs’ if you like). I love Christmas. I love celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ, and yes, I know that the chances of it actually being on 25th December are minimal. But it is beginning to feel a lot like Christmas. And how do I know?
It’s that stretched feeling. It’s not noticing when people are joking. It’s when I forget things, it’s when I don’t notice what is going on around me. It’s that feeling of having to be super organised, of being in the right place at the right time having set up the right people to read the right things. It’s the time when people expect certain things, regardless of whether they are daily present in churches, or whether this is the only time of year they worship in community. It’s that time of year when as a Christian priest, I (want and) am expected to connect with a huge range of people, each one of whom has their own Christmas story, their own set of memories, of past and present relationships, of ways of meeting God and of the times they want to forget.
Because this is the time when we think about God made human, about incarnation, of Jesus the baby. This is the time of year when the Christian story connects most vividly with 20th and 21st century life – in the birth of a baby to parents who didn’t expect that this would be their reality. Peaching death, tortured on a cross and rising to new life, preaching salvation….that’s hard, and outside the experience of most people. But preaching the unexpected birth, the outcome that wasn’t as any new couple would want, the experience of being rejected at the inn door….that’s where there are connections to be made. Preaching that fractured lives can be mended, that if expectations aren’t met they may be exceeded beyond our dreams in a different way…..hope. That’s where Christians can make a difference.
At Christmas we Christians have a ready made audience, who are well disposed towards us, who want and need to hear a message of hope, a message which affirms the love God has for them. At Christmas, we need not to let them or God down.