For the first time ever this year my excitement about and enjoyment of Christmas has been intermittent at best. Depression, illness and tinsel don't mix. I have been in search of an elusive “fuzzy” Christmassy feeling, searching for joy and satisfaction among fairy lights and wrapping paper. However, earlier this evening as I heard some Christmas carols and readings of the Christmas story the awesome promises they contain leapt out at me. We have so much more to celebrate than good TV and mince pies. As C.S. Lewis wrote, “We are far too easily pleased”*, our joys are so small compared to the joys He offered us by coming to live among us. Santa gives transitory presents once a year; Christ gives never ending gifts and riches and pleasures everyday – and the best is yet to come! This is not to say that there is not enjoyment to be found in Christmas trees, Santa and mince pies, all good gifts come from God. However, there is no reason for added pressure, for us to strive to have the 'perfect' Christmas. That I suspect happened long ago on a night when angels serenaded shepherds and a star pointed the way.
For now this understanding as Jesus as Emmanuel and this tremendous promise of Christmas does not change my earthly circumstances. I am still exhausted, dreading the small talk of Christmas parties and socialising and struggling to cope with the extra strain it all brings. But I am at peace and I know that dark and impossible as things look now, light is in the world and will come once more. I know that Christ has overcome the world through His death and resurrection. And so God, in His grace, gives me the resources to continue.
What Christmas gives us is a glimpse into change, a glimpse of hope. That better things have come and are coming. The world, despite its gaudiest efforts, still looks bleak and hopeless. Christmas is a reminder of Emmanuel – that God is with us, now . God's kingdom beginning by coming to us as a tiny baby, born into similarly bleak surroundings, bringing hope. Things look bad now but they aren't always going to be, better things are coming. The Christmas story is like a tantalising glimpse of the new order. Until then we remember the Incarnate God who loves us so much that He was born in a stable in Bethlehem, as the prophet had foretold so many years before. The God who planned His own entrance among us with such care, is the same God who guides our own steps through this temporary veil of tears with the same care. Nothing is outside His power and if we put our faith in Jesus then we have a future that shines more brightly than that star.
“May the joy of the angels,
the eagerness of the shepherds,
the perseverance of the wise men,
the obedience of Joseph and Mary,
and the peace of the Christ child
be yours this Christmas;
and the blessing of God almighty,
the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit,
be among you and remain with you always.
*C S Lewis, “The Weight of Glory” http://www.doxaweb.com/ass