Sitting down to write this column gave me a chance to spend a little time pondering Christmas. These last three weeks have given us some wonderful reflections from my ministerial colleagues. Their columns have shared what the season of Advent and our time of preparation is all about and a reminder of what it is we are readying ourselves for and welcoming at Christmas.
As I write, my favourite musician who is home from university, is practising in the next room. There is a lovely serenade of scales and technique drills accompanying this process. To have the time to spend together with him, with our family and with the parish family adds such joy to Christmas.
But on the other hand, we are in the final stretch. The kids are finished school for their Christmas break; the to-do list is feeling a little overwhelming and there is so little time left. We are overtired or even ill from all of the activities and socializing.
For some of us, it is the first Christmas after a friend or loved one has died. Our feelings are still raw. Family relationships can be complicated, full of tension and brokenness. Changes may be coming in the new year at work or in our financial situations, causing anxiety and concern. There may be a calendar full of doctor’s appointments, procedures and treatments to distract and worry us.
All of this means the words describing Christmas are not only love, peace, hope and joy but also weariness, anxiousness, and dread, too. Feelings of being disconnected with the all the seemingly happy people around us adds loneliness to the list as well.
It is so important to recognize all of this is why we have been given the gift of Christmas; God’s tangible gift of love. The prophet Isaiah tells us, “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who lived in a land of deep darkness, on them light has shined. For a child has been born for us, a son given to us; authority rests upon his shoulders and he is named Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace." (Isaiah 9:2,6 NRSV)
For people feeling lost, hurting, and carrying heavy burdens, hope and love came into the world in the birth of this Holy Child. A gift of love and healing to a world in desperate need of both. A sign of how dearly and deeply we are loved by our Creator.
A gift whose impact continues to ripple across centuries and generations. A gift that once given, cannot be taken back. We are reminded in this most blessed season, that we have a God who keeps the promises made through the prophets to send a Messiah into the world. Who knew us well enough to know we would need a companion to help us through the challenges and difficulties in life. To have a source of support and strength to draw from when we are weary, and offer hope when we are discouraged.
All of this because of a baby born in a stable, to parents who responded to God’s call to be a part of something miraculous that changed the world forever.
This Christmas, may you find strength in this sign of God’s love for us; comfort and peace in understanding how deeply we are known by our God who created us, and true joy in a gift of love that has the power to transform and heal lives.