Looking at the Christmas story at yesterday’s Morning Prayer reminded our small gathering that Christmas can be a funny time of year. On the one hand we’re encouraged to have a good time with family and friends, to indulge in plenty of food and drink whilst swapping Christmas gifts. On the other, the seasonal festivities can sometimes highlight feelings of loneliness, thoughts of those missing from around the family table or our financial difficulties. The ‘good news of great joy’ brought to the shepherds by the angels can also seem thin on the ground especially when the news at the moment is full of stories of the evacuation of Aleppo, a new untested American President and a chaotic Brexit from the EU ahead of us.
At moments like this I am always grateful that the Bible doesn’t gloss over some of the difficult questions about life and faith that we all face at some time or other. In fact it goes out of its way to include stories about people who struggled to hold on to the joy of the gospel in dark times. At the start of Advent we heard about the birth of John the Baptist and the great work he was going to do in bringing the lost people of Israel back to God. His story ends with a spell on death row for failing to keep his mouth shut. As he awaits his fate at the hands of King Herod he wonders if he has got it all wrong. Has the Kingdom of God really come? Is Jesus really who he claims to be? Jesus’ reply to his doubts, sent via his disciples, is for him to look around him to see evidence of God at work amid the mess of everyday life, (Luke 7:18-23).
Digging deeper into the story of Christmas we find that life was tough for all those involved. But that didn’t mean that God wasn’t at work both in and through the main characters. In fact he was working out his purposes; God Himself chose to be born amidst the struggle of ordinary people, choosing to identify with us. So, this Christmas let’s keep our eyes and ears open to stories of hope and reassurance that the God who came to live with us in Bethlehem continues to make his home with us both now and in the year ahead.
And thinking about the Christmas story why not come a join us this Sunday at 4.30pm for our Community Carol Service. It’s a chance to be reminded of its message of hope through songs, readings, fun and fellowship, not to mention the odd mince pie!