As we begin December, and the Christmas season approaches, what are your first reactions to and thoughts about its arrival? Do you tingle with excitement at the prospect of the return of work parties and drinks with the neighbours, of stocking your pantry with Christmas eats and searching the shops for an abundance of gifts? Or is it somewhat different for you: forced jollity; a lot of expense for a lot of grief; difficult family get togethers; maybe the saddest of memories and loneliness.
There are a myriad of responses to our modern Christmas. And we may feel some of all of these, however contradictory, throughout the period.
So, before hurtling into this season (or cowering away from it all) let’s reset our perspective and change the lens through which we see what approaches.
In the church, there is a wonderful preparatory period leading up to Christmas each year which we call Advent. This time throughout December encourages us to stop, reflect and listen as we anticipate the gift of the birth of Jesus, God with us. This is an opportunity to do a number of things, any and all of which can give us an entirely fresh look at Christmas.
- Reflect on what is going on in your life, what is good and sustains you and what is a hindrance and would be better thrown off. God wants you to live life to the full. Ask God for peace and stillness amongst all the seasonal distractions to have clarity of mind and thought and to allow God to speak to your heart.
- Go the extra mile with goodness for others. Not just to those you know, although that is always needed, but also to the stranger and those whose lives we rarely see because they are marginalised and forgotten. In Advent more than any time, share and care in the most practical of ways. Jesus birth in a stable reminds us that there is none too low, too untouchable or too unreachable for his love.
- Create every day an attitude of expectation and thanks. Expectation for the good things to come in the season and ultimately God becoming one of us in Jesus. And thanks for the little things as well as the grand. To instil a mindset of gratitude can overturn the most bleak of days. Not to be Pollyanna about everything (there are many hard things to endure) but to count blessings too and acknowledge what is good. It changes lives.
- Focus on what really matters and don’t become overwrought by the doing and the lists. Take time for one another, take time for yourself and take time for God.
Christmas doesn’t have to be a mad rush: Jesus came silent to the world. Christmas doesn’t have to be about the best gifts and over-indulgence: Jesus born in a stable was attended by shepherds and livestock. But Christmas can be all about celebration and love, of each other and in thanks to God. Give yourself that, the very best of gifts.
How silently, how silently
The wondrous gift is given!
So God imparts to human hearts
The blessings of His heaven.
Merry Christmas from us all at St Mary’s. Look out for the Christmas services and join us. You’ll be made very welcome.