In former days, when literacy was by no means universal, if someone who could not read and write was required to sign a document, to evidence their assent, they would make a mark. Invariably the mark was some sort of cross. It bound them to the document, but it was nonetheless an anonymous signature, having nothing to do with their name, their identity or character.

Over the years, often reference to Christmas on cards, in adverts on television, across the media, has become Xmas. We all know it’s an abbreviation. But still, like the mark of old, it takes the very name of Jesus out of the celebration of his birth in some way. It anonymises Christmas, removing the name, the character, the person at the heart of the story we tell. Remarkably, utterly amazing, God becomes human.

These times are hard in so many ways for so many people in our Parish and beyond, not just in the UK but worldwide. There is much suffering through loss, bereavement; poverty; distress through isolation and inability to hug and be close to those whom we love. Such a challenging time.

So, this year, perhaps more importantly than any other, putting Christ back into Christmas seems like the gift of an age. For in Jesus, in that tiny, fragile, most human of babies, God comes close to each of us, becoming one of us, sharing our identity and in suffering and poverty like so many now.  God did not stand apart but entered our world to show us his solidarity in whatever circumstances we find ourselves and the way to be with him through Jesus.

There can be no greater gift. There can be no more hopeful message this Christmas than that.

At St Mary’s this year, we do not know yet whether we will be permitted to meet in worship together to celebrate Christ’s birth, our Christmas. But as with all the churches in the Parish, look out for the latest news on our website. And wherever you are, the church family at St Mary’s wish you every blessing, every kindness and the assurance of the grace of God in Christ, made one of us.

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