I have now reached that ripe old age when I am about to become an OAP. One thing that often comes with age, which is true in my case at least, is that one might be then in a position to reflect upon a lifetime of having listened to countless Christmas messages, ranging from the truly inspirational to the decidedly forgettable.
It seems all and sundry are trying to get in on the act these days besides the catching up of news that goes on among friends and family. Of course there is our own Queen, whose Christmas message is one I generally look forward to, and I am told this year it will be more religious than normal. But then there are our politicians, with those leading the way this year being Labour’s Jeremy Corbyn and Conservative’s David Cameron. Corbyn seemed to be relating the Christmas story to what true socialism seeks to achieve and Cameron has pointed to the traditional virtues of peace, goodwill, mercy and hope. Both attracted a good deal of criticism over their comments yet both are right, as are my Green friends with which I had an interesting Facebook exchange about which party was most Christian, and here I concede that when it comes to looking after the planet then the Greens might well score highly.
But then Jesus did not come to earth to endorse any political system, for all systems are flawed. He is the Word that became flesh, the Master of the Universe, the Saviour of the World, the Lord of all creation, the coming King to reign and so much more. Our best bet is to be on his side by following him and giving the honour that is due to Almighty God, standing with the poor and the oppressed, speaking and enacting words of freedom, taking care of our planet and simply loving our neighbor whoever he/she is and wherever he/she may be found – a tall order but achievable despite our many shortcomings because of the enormous grace of God.
When I bumped into one of my neighbours yesterday and enquired about the names of some of the neighbours whose names I did not know, it was so I could indulge one of my own traditions – that of putting a Christmas card in their doors. When I told my neighbor that my family are not especially Christmasy (evidenced for example by my sense of irritation at hearing sentimental sloshy Christmas songs in our local shopping mall, part of a plot I feel to getting people to spend money on stuff they don’t need etc.), she responded that it had been noted. As I reflect, while not a great Christmas fan, and not all Christmases in the past have been particularly happy, some have been and invariably it is a time to reflect with gratitude on life’s gifts and what truly matters. While my Plymouth Brethren upbringing didn’t rate Christmas much, for every day was Christmas and Easter rolled into one, as well as Good Friday in reflecting on the one who was born to die, I have learned to go with the flow.
Tonight, I plan to go to Midnight Mass at the High Anglican church up the road (another tradition) maybe with my cat following (as last year) and tomorrow I will attend my own Low Strict Baptist church, which will be having its own Christmas day service, with my family. It also happens I will be managing a night shelter for the homeless on Christmas day (not a tradition – yet) and as a family we will be having what is sometimes euphemistically called a quiet Christmas. While the world is full of much assorted injustice and suffering, what I have also seen, and with this I take heart, is that this year especially I have witnessed many acts of kindness toward the poor and vulnerable in our society, and that has to be a good thing!
I am mindful we have just come to the end of the Advent season. As my pastor has been at pains to point out, this is the time to prepare for Christ’s second coming (that will surely happen, and only then will the world be set to right) and is a time of sober reflection and preparation, given that babe in the manager will one day return as judge. But as the clock strikes midnight, we remember the greatest gift any of us can ever have, Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is come into our world! For some will want to celebrate Christmas and others won’t; some will be glad and others sad; some will have much and others little; some will be secure and others not so; some will be religious and others not at all. All that remains now, irrespective of the wide range of readers views on the celebration Christmas, and in time honoured tradition, is to wish my readers a Merry Christmas!