I love Christmas, I always have. Before I gave my life to Jesus just over nine years ago I would look forward to this time of year, and yet for many years (certainly since I started work) Christmas never matched up to my hopes. But every year I would look forward to it again. I now understand that Christmas is not about me, it is about Jesus.
Now I confess, I love to listen to Christmas carols. They are like a comfort blanket, like those long ago childhood days of a time with my beloved grandparents. They bring happiness and peace, and that’s what Christmas should do, bring to all a sense of peace, because Christmas is when we are reminded just how much God loves us. God loves us so much that he came down from heaven to save us and to show us how to live in this world in a way that pleases Him.
How sad that for so many people they find it a time of terrible despair and depression! Why is that? For me I think that it is related to the unmet expectations that our commercial world puts on the celebration of Christmas. Many have forgotten it is about celebrating the birth of Jesus and it has for many turned into the celebration of me: “Look what I have got, look what I bought so and so”. For many it is the worship of me, me, me.
Jesus is the reason for the season, and there is no other reason. Without Jesus there is no reason for Christmas. We make such hard work of it, of getting everything done in time, buying the latest game the latest song or gadget, not to mention all the food.
And what about all that talk of goodwill while little in the world echoes charity or love, or any kind of good will. And when Christmas finally arrives for many - it’s nothing. Just another day, and, it’s gone just like any other day and you’re on to the next day. And you’re left with a lot of clearing up and turkey sandwiches, turkey curry and more turkey - and for some debt, and an empty feeling. Jesus is abandoned at the first opportunity by everyone ‘selling us’ Christmas. We want heaven, even just a taste, even for a few moments - instead many who do not know the Lord Jesus are left with the taste of plastic and rubbish. What a let-down!
Some of us will be alone, and it is the last thing we want to be at Christmas. We want to be included; we want to be welcomed, even when we are grumpy – especially when we are grumpy, even if we don’t admit it. We don’t want stuff, we want forgiveness - both from human’s and from God - and we want love. We want to be forgiven and to forgive but we are afraid that our offer of forgiveness may be thrown back in our face.
That God is willing to forgive us is proved by Jesus dying on a cross. So we should be willing to take that first step of forgiveness. By asking God to forgive us and by forgiving others.
I love Christmas films. Over the past two weeks Chris and I have watched loads of Christmas films but my favourite is A Christmas Carol, I have always loved this film, my kids roll their eyes when they are home and I want to watch it with everyone, when Scrooge got it, got the meaning of Christmas, got that love one another message he did not want to be alone. And he received forgiveness and lived life to the full.
But do you know what is missing in this film and the 7 or 8 others that we have watched over the last two weeks, there’s the Christmas magic, there is Father Christmas there is snow, but there is no Jesus. As Phil our Vicar said recently, the birth of Jesus is not a fairy story, in fact there is more evidence of Jesus birth, life, death and resurrection than that Julius Caesar ever lived.
Jesus came to be born a baby in a manger, because He loves us and He is waiting to be asked into our lives to help us live life to the full. If you think, “I am all right as I am”, trust me Jesus can make your life so much better, he did mine and my family’s just over 9 years ago and we were doing all right.
As we heard in our reading the apostle John said “The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world. To all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.”
Children of God - what a free gift! Jesus came as a helpless baby into our world to save us and to show us how to live a more acceptable life, a life that would honour God and a life that would bring us peace and eternal life with God - Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
But on the whole we the human race have decided to forget about Jesus and only remember him for a short while at this time of year, as the 3rd verse of the carol ‘It came upon a midnight clear’ says:
“But with the woes of sin and strife the world has suffered long; Beneath the angel-strain have rolled two thousand years of wrong; And man, at war with man, hears not the love-song, which they bring: O hush the noise, ye men of strife, and hear the angels sing!”
Listen to the message, God has come to save. That’s what the name “Jesus” means. “God saves.” All this begins when Jesus comes as a baby to live us one of us. Jesus the light of the world comes into our world, then and now. God the Son came and lived as a man, not a king but an ordinary man, with people just like us.
God has come to our rescue. He comes to include us. He comes bearing forgiveness. He comes bearing love. He comes to bring life…no, not just life - eternal life, peace on earth, goodwill to men. God comes to dwell among men. God becomes one of us. God becomes a helpless child. God is with us. He comes, filling a world of trouble with light and life.
If we chose to fellow Him. We can also bring light into our lives, our families our friends and our community’s and if we truly embrace that who knows where it will end. The Son of God came for us, what grace God has shown us.
So what is our response this Christmas and into next year - to give our lives to follow Jesus, or to put Jesus back in the box and wait for next Christmas?
Jesus comes into our darkness, because He loves us all. He came upon a midnight clear, because He loves us all. Let’s pray: Lord it is a mystery why you love us, but it is clear that you do, thank you Lord that you came as a baby for us and died for us, help us to follow you better this year than we did last year, Amen.