Rector's Blog

Christmas Message from the Rector

Many people tell me that Christmas is their favourite time of year.  Not for everyone of course, for others, those who have lost loved ones, or find themselves separated from family and friends or are simply don’t enjoy the whole secular Christmas vibe it can be a difficult time. But even for those of us who love Christmas it can be stressful.  There are quite a few things we allow ourselves to get wound up about!  Here are just three I have been guilty of in the past.

  1. First Stress: Present buying.   Trying to get the right thing for everyone and isn’t there always one person that you can never think what to get? You spend far more time seeking that gift out than any of the others and then when you do hand over the present and they unwrap it. You see on their face. They are thinking. Gosh is this from M and S? I hope she got a gift receipt. When can I take it back?
  2. Second stress: The Christmas meal.  Over the years I’ve spent many times in the run up to Christmas with recipe books around and watching Nigella Lawson and Delia Smith prepare perfect Christmas meals for their guests who on the TV programmes are always shiny, smiley good looking people. They aren’t like my family at all! Everything looks perfect.  I’ve spent a lot of time cooking for people at Christmas and you know it never quite looks like Delia’s.  
  3. Third stress:  The worry and the guilt about those who aren’t able to enjoy Christmas this year – those who don’t have friends and family at Christmas. Those who are living in war torn countries and I am wondering what can I do for them.  Not much it sometimes seems.  And this year more than most when we read of what is happening in Israel and Palestine and read that Palestinian Christians in Bethlehem are not celebrating as they usually do as they stand alongside those caught up in the war and violence this is more than ever in our thoughts.  

But looking at these “Christmas stresses” there is a common theme.  They are all about things I am trying to do for people – buy the perfect gift, cook a perfect meal, solve the world’s problem by doing something for people. None of them are bad in themselves. We like to buy gifts, we want to show hospitality, we are certainly right to worry about the world and especially those around us who are lonely at this time. 

But the message of Christmas is that it is not about for at all – it is about with.   Christmas is about Emmanuel which means God is with us. God didn’t set this world right at Christmas – there was suffering and pain and violence at the time of Jesus’ birth and there still is.  God doesn’t shower down material wealth and presents on us at Christmas and thankfully he doesn’t get upset when we aren’t grateful for the gifts he does send us. God shows us something else at Christmas.  In Matthew’s Gospel we read that the angel said to Joseph behold a virgin shall conceive and bear a son and his name shall be Emmanuel that is God is with us (Matt 1:23) and then the powerful words at the beginning of John’s Gospel – “The Word became flesh and lived among us”  

With is the most fundamental thing about God.  Jesus very last words in Matthews Gospel are Behold I am with you always.  There is never a time that God leaves us. From the very beginning of time until the very end of time God is with us.  And so we surely must reflect that with in our own lives and you know with can be a lot harder than for.

Sometimes it’s easier to worry about a present you’ve bought someone than the lack of time you’ve spent with them or it’s easier to worry if the cooking is exactly right than the conversation at the table. And don’t we often find there are so many things on our to do list that we need to do for people  we just don’t have enough time to spend with God in prayer?

We often fear the with because with demands a lot of us. Being with means opening up our own vulnerabilities to others, being with involves finding time to be with others. And with God. Being with can be tough.  Far easier to do things for people.  We stay in control. God has done amazing things for us. Jesus came to earth –he healed, he taught, he gave his life for us and God gave us the comforter the Holy Spirit.   God has never stopped doing things for us but he has done them with us.

At Christmas we celebrate that the Word became flesh and lived among us.  He came to be with us and he has never left us.   When we go back to thinking how hard it is sometimes to be with people and how much easier just to do things for people well, I’m thinking that surely God must feel that way about us – we never listen, we are ungrateful, self absorbed, self destructive so much of the time! But God never gives up on us. God chooses always to be with us. That’s what the Bible tells us, that’s what we experience in our lives.  That’s the amazing news of Christmas. Have a Blessed Christmas. Rev’d Cannon Andrea S Jones