Christmas has been packed away in boxes and confined to cupboards, the garage or the loft… only to be considered in December as we wonder whether we will be able to untangle the lights, why they don’t work when they did when we put them away, and where we put those favourite tree decorations. Rooms, houses, streets and (dare I say it) churches look a bit drab and empty after all the glittery tinselly sparkly twinkly lighty stuff has been taken down.
I wonder if we do the same with the Christmas narratives. We focus on them for a short period of the year and don’t consider them at all for the rest of the year. Mary is free to live without fear of being surprised by an angel, the shepherds stay unfrightened in the fields, wise men don’t travel from the East, and the cattle are free to low to their hearts content without fear of finding a baby in their food.
But if the real message of Christmas also gets packed away for another year we are impoverished by that. If Immanuel, God with us, is simply something we consider during the Advent season and we forget the miracle and reality that he is with us always, we are almost in the same category as Joseph’s relatives in Bethlehem who would not put up with the scandal of having Mary and Joseph stay with them: we are part of the family in name only.
It’s a real shame that we only sing Christmas carols at Christmas because there is so much deep theology within them that we could spend the whole year unpacking and still not finished by the time we get Christmas again. so here’s a challenge for you: think of your favourite Christmas Carol and contemplate averse a day until you have finished that Carol. What is it saying to you about who Jesus is and your relationship with God? How is your life different because the baby was born in the manger? Where do you fit in the Christmas story? Where does the Christmas story fit in your life?
One of the problems at Christmas is that there are so many lovely carols we don’t get to sing them all in any given year. I got into trouble this year because several people had said that they had a favourite Carol and I had not included it in our Carol services. Perhaps this is an opportunity to redress the balance!
It came upon the midnight clear, that glorious song of old, from angels bending near the Earth to touch their harps of gold: “peace on the earth, goodwill to men, from heaven’s all gracious king;” the world in solemn stillness late to hear the angels sing.
Still through the cloven skies they come, with peaceful wings unfurled, and still their heavenly music floats o’er all the weary world: above its sad and lonely plains they bend on hovering wing, and over all its Babel sounds the blessed angels sing.
Yet with the woes of sin and strife the world has suffered long, beneath the angel-strain have rolled 2000 years of wrong; and man, at war with man, hears not the love song which they bring: so hush the noise, you men of strife, and hear the angels sing.
And still the days are hastening on, by prophets once foretold, when with the ever-circling years comes round the age of gold; when peace shall over all the earth its ancient splendours fling, and all the world send back the song which now the angels sing.
Be blessed, be a blessing.