Wednesday, 25 December 2013

Christmas, Shaftesbury

I've been to the post office rather a lot recently, going to get stamps to post my Christmas cards. And I've had to go there so many times because Shaftesbury post office hasn't had stamps. I went there with a huge pile of cards, only to be told that they didn't have any foreign stamps, and didn't have any second class stamps, that they hadn't had any for over two weeks, and they didn't know when they would get any in.
I was tempted to get ANGRY and demand to know what a post office was for if not for posting things,
and to demand to know how on earth Cousin Doky in Iowa was going to get her card?!!
But, actually, I didn't get angry. I was very polite. I was very English. I just said, "Oh dear. I'll just have to come back another time”.

But what struck me as significant was the fact that the post office still somehow was BUSY.
Now, a post office is for posting things. And yet, somehow, even when they can't do that, they somehow stay busy with other stuff, selling decorations, cello tape etc
And I though that church can be like that too, and you as Christian families can be like that too.
We can fail to have the thing that makes us what we are, the loving Christ-child, and yet stay busy with other churchy or Christmassy things.

So, what is Christmas like without the core, without Jesus Christ?
Busy. There is still turkey. Still presents to be found, and bought, and wrapped. Still cards to be sent (if you can get stamps).
But without Christ, it doesn’t have a MEANING, it doesn’t have it’s purpose.
It becomes a celebration of His birth that forgets the One who was born.

And, of course, we can also lose Christ at Christmas by a lack of love.
He came from heaven to earth because He loves us, because He wishes to save us.
Yet, we can have the celebration without love.
Eating turkey, but not being kind,
Gathering with family, but not patient and forgiving.
We can be like the post office: busy, but not busy with what it is supposed to be about.

In contrast, Christmas WITH Christ is a very different affair.
It remembers Christ, remembers the One who gives meaning to it all:
That the Lord God Almighty, in His infinite love for each and every one of us, formed a plan long ago:
He promised it at the dawn of creation, that the Son of Eve would crush the head of the serpent (Gen 3:15).
He called and formed a Chosen People to be the place of His birth.
He prophesied it through the lips of His many prophets that they might be ready.
And then, finally, God entered His world, as one of us, out of love for us.
And He still comes to us today, to hearts willing to receive Him.

And our celebration of that, at Christmas: If we let what we believe inspire our actions then it becomes a beautiful sight:
If we are patient and laugh when Uncle Bert tells us joke, again, that isn’t very funny -just as the Lord was patient in planning for His birth.
If we are forgiving with little faults and failing as the Lord came to forgive us and die for us on the Cross.
If we are loving as Christ loved us enough to be poor and humble, born in the stable.
Then we will have the CORE of what Christmas is about: the loving Christ-child.
A celebration with meaning, and activity with its core purpose,
something even better than a post office with stamps.

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