Some music to listen to while you read the message
This is a very important time of year. It is certainly a very busy time of year for many people. So much to do, but is there enough time to do it? Everything now must be done “before Christmas”, as if 2023 is not going to happen.
It’s a time of year when many people put a lot of pressure on themselves with their preparations for Christmas. To be fair, a lot of pressure is also put on us from different sources. We have to write our cards and get them posted (despite the fact that the stamp will cost more than the card and in the vain hope that it arrives before next Christmas!); we have to buy, wrap and deliver the presents (more socks?); we have to buy and cook all the food (what did we do before the freezer and the microwave?); and of course we need a little liquid refreshment (to help with the post lunch snooze…). There is a lot to do!
Implicitly the pressures we face are not only pressures on our time. Financial pressures are a significant concern this year for most people. The cost of living day by day has increased considerably, let alone the cost of pushing the boat out a little. If we are unable to meet these pressures or if we try to avoid them we are often left feeling guilty – because of the pressure we are under! Truth be told, such pressures are really not helpful to our preparations, or indeed to our celebrations, when Christmas actually arrives.
The danger when faced with so many distractions and pressures is that we lose sight completely of the truly important things. So many people ‘celebrate’ Christmas without stopping to think what all the fuss is actually about. If we celebrate Christmas, we joyfully rejoice that God has become man. Of course you don’t have to be a Christian to have a good time over the Christmas holiday, but that is not celebrating Christmas.
If we are then preparing to celebrate Christmas, we need to think about why we are buying cards and presents, why the extra and special food and drink. We have to think about why we celebrate Christmas and what we celebrate at Christmas.
The very real danger is that we are so busy and distracted that we don’t have time to think about it, which is really quite silly when you think about it. We are helplessly swept away by the tide of commercialisation which tells us that unless we spend and buy Christmas will be a flop!
The truth of the matter, I would venture to say, is that we can get as stressed as we can, that we can spend our last penny, and Christmas can still be an anti-climax – which is sad. Nothing depresses me more than hearing people complaining about making all the effort “for just one day”…
As Mary Berry has a simple solution to all kitchen catastrophes in waiting, what then is my solution to a failsafe joyful celebration of Christmas? Preparation is the key. One of my favourite pithy sayings is ‘fail to prepare – prepare to fail’!
To my mind, this is true of so much in life. There is always a limit as to how much we can prepare, and there will be things which catch us out. But among all our other preparations – the cards, the presents, the food, the drink, we need to make time for ourselves to think about what we will be celebrating at Christmas and why.
In a sense this is not the most helpful guidance, as the one thing that is in short supply for many people is time itself. Adding to the ‘to do’ list is the last thing we want! Yes, time is precious, but in a sense it does not cost anything and we cannot buy it. We all have twenty four hours in a day and we have to make the most of them. I would suggest that sitting down for a few moments and thinking about Christmas would be a very good use of our time, especially in view of all the other things going on.
I have referred to the Christian celebration of Christmas, as we celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ, God the Son. After two thousand years perhaps this statement has lost its edge. Yet it is a celebration of the greatest mystery, and marks a change in the history of the universe and in the history of the relationship between the God of the Hebrew Bible and Creation.
There are other good reasons why Christmas can be celebrated as something more than just another day, but unless those reasons are well-founded, our preparations will with the benefit of hindsight appear excessive in the context of the celebration itself.
The fact is that there is much to celebrate. Much preparation is therefore needed. The Christian celebration is the greatest gift ever given, given freely, God gave his only Son, to live as we live, to die as we die, to conquer death, that we might have the promise of eternal life. That is what and why Christians celebrate Christmas. To think on that we need time and space…
Ideally now is the time to think, to make those preparations, in advance of our celebration. As the world of retail and hospitality strives to celebrate Christmas, we remember that Christmas does not start until December 25th (or perhaps at sunset on December 24th)! It has not yet arrived and so we have some time remaining. Now is not the time for us to celebrate and rejoice, but rather to tend to those last minute preparations which can be so important. If we are able to make the best use of these last few days, our celebration of Christmas will be filled with joy.
I always remind people that Christmas is not limited to Christmas Day. We need more than one day for such a great celebration. Twelve days and each one to be celebrated joyfully, as our circumstances permit, as we see best!
My prayer is that you will not be overcome by the many pressures you face with your preparations for Christmas, but rather that you will have time and opportunity to reflect on what Christmas means to you, and what you will be celebrating.
I offer this prayer:
God our heavenly Father, who by the birth of your Son Jesus Christ has visited us with your saving power: grant that as we welcome our Saviour, his presence may shine out in our hearts and in our lives; and in all our preparations for Christmas help us to think of others, and to show our thanks to you for your great gift, the same Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
When the time comes, I wish you peace and joy at Christmas, and health and contentment in the New Year. Nadolig Llawen a Blwyddyn Newydd Dda i bob un ohonoch.