I'm afraid I've been rather lax on blogging of late, been horribly tired and struggling to keep up with Christmas preparations. There's just so much to do in the run up to Christmas and lots of meeting up with people, though I've been doing less than most people I suspect!
However, now decorations are up, fairy lights that work have been located, cake has been made and iced and presents have been knitted and even wrapped up. I'm sad that I've not been able to make it to church or to do many of the things I'd wanted to do for Christmas or in the run up to Christmas. But the extra time I've had to think has been helpful and has led me to realise that we put far too much pressure on ourselves over Christmas. There exists this mythical "perfect Christmas" that we've seen all over the media, from tv adverts advising shopping at a particular supermarket for "the perfect Christmas" to magazine fronts emblazoned with "top tips for that perfect Christmas you've always dreamed of". However, the truth is that the perfect Christmas has already happened, more than 2000 years ago, in Bethlehem and the main celebrants were a group of shepherds and some "magi from the east". Nothing can ever better that Christmas, prepared with infinite care and yet some apparent glaring omissions (such as hotel bookings) by our gracious, loving Father to bring us the best gift ever. All we are doing is celebrating that this has already happened, marking the occasion, so no pressure. If the gravy is lumpy and the presents held up in the post and the Christmas tree a bit askew, it doesn't matter.
What matters is Emmanuel - God with us, made flesh, coming to save the lost. So have a lovely Christmas, if you want to. I leave with you with John Betjeman's poem Christmas, which puts what I have been trying to say far better than I ever can.
The bells of waiting Advent ring,
The Tortoise stove is lit again
And lamp-oil light across the night
Has caught the streaks of winter rain
In many a stained-glass window sheen
From Crimson Lake to Hookers Green.
The holly in the windy hedge
And round the Manor House the yew
Will soon be stripped to deck the ledge,
The altar, font and arch and pew,
So that the villagers can say
'The church looks nice' on Christmas Day.
Provincial Public Houses blaze,
Corporation tramcars clang,
On lighted tenements I gaze,
Where paper decorations hang,
And bunting in the red Town Hall
Says 'Merry Christmas to you all'.
And London shops on Christmas Eve
Are strung with silver bells and flowers
As hurrying clerks the City leave
To pigeon-haunted classic towers,
And marbled clouds go scudding by
The many-steepled London sky.
And girls in slacks remember Dad,
And oafish louts remember Mum,
And sleepless children's hearts are glad.
And Christmas-morning bells say 'Come!'
Even to shining ones who dwell
Safe in the Dorchester Hotel.
And is it true,
This most tremendous tale of all,
Seen in a stained-glass window's hue,
A Baby in an ox's stall ?
The Maker of the stars and sea
Become a Child on earth for me ?
And is it true ? For if it is,
No loving fingers tying strings
Around those tissued fripperies,
The sweet and silly Christmas things,
Bath salts and inexpensive scent
And hideous tie so kindly meant,
No love that in a family dwells,
No carolling in frosty air,
Nor all the steeple-shaking bells
Can with this single Truth compare -
That God was man in Palestine
And lives today in Bread and Wine.