Monday, November 30, 2009

Christmas Letter - from church magazine...

How do you feel about Christmas?

Some people love it and have never reallylost the wonderful child-like innocence of it all – they can't wait for the decorations to go up, the music to start playing and the anticipation of the big day itself, spent with loved ones.

For others, it's one of the toughest times of the year. Cold weather, memories of past Christmases where everything went very wrong, broken relationships and loneliness all take their toll. And Christmas is the hardest time to be alone.

And for those of us who go to church, Christmas is often the time when we hear sermon after sermon reminding us not to take Christ out of Christmas, or all we'll be left with is M&S. It's clever, but I don't think it goes far enough.

So amid the abandoned diets, merry-making and sorrow, preparations and presents and pies, let me offer three quick thoughts about Christmas.

1. Let Christmas blow your mind

Of course, Christmas is about Jesus being born in Bethlehem over 2000 years ago. And it's a great story to teach children – there are all kinds of useful lessons about it being important to treat refugees and poor people well. But so often we leave the Christmas story for the children, and we don't stop to realise how earth-shatteringly huge it is. It's like buying a new car, and only ever using it to enjoy the way the windscreen wipers work!

Christmas is when the infinite, eternal God, who made everything that exists became part of his own creation. And not an important part either. He didn't become King of the Universe at Christmas, though even that would have been a big step down. He became an illegitimate baby born to a poor couple from a conquered race, born in a grotty cave-stable in an insignificant backwater of a town in the unfashionable end of the Roman Empire. And that is the same God who spoke and the universe was created. A Christmas carol puts it well:

Our God, Heaven cannot hold Him, nor earth sustain; Heaven and earth shall flee away when He comes to reign. In the bleak midwinter a stable place sufficed The Lord God Almighty, Jesus Christ.

Or as C.S. Lewis wrote in The Last Battle: “In our world, too, a stable once held something inside it that was bigger than our whole world.” If that doesn't blow your mind, I don't know what will.

2. Let Christmas bring you to your knees

And God did this not just to blow our minds, but to enter into our experience. The God of the Universe became one of us and lived as one of us so that we could know him and be with him. God himself bridged the gap between people and God, and at immense cost to himself.

Do we praise and worship God for Christmas? Do we let the facts of Christmas bring us to our knees? I recommend that you take some time on your own or with another Christian to just think about what God did at Christmas until you are left with no choice but to worship him for it.

3. Let Christmas warm your heart

Christmas is also a time to celebrate what we have in this life. Telling people to put Jesus at the centre of Christmas often doesn't work because they don't see how he will help them enjoy Christmas more. We need to show them that Jesus was right when he said “I have come that they may have life to the full,” and that the best life to live is one with Jesus at the centre.

So I hope and pray you will all enjoy Christmas, that you will enjoy Christmas all the more because Jesus is at the centre of it, and that you will share that enjoyment with others who don't have as much to rejoice about.

God bless, and have a very Happy Christmas!

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