Christmas is a good time to…

I don’t know how you would end the statement above. There are a multitude of alternative endings. Eat. Drink. Socialise. Go to church. Sing carols. Sleep. Play with the toys you bought for the children. Blame someone for not remembering to buy double A batteries. Or forgetting the cranberry sauce. Phone the family members who live in Australia – remembering the time difference of course (they won’t be chuffed with a “Happy Christmas!” at 3 a.m.). Watch tv. Watch the Queen’s speech. Watch it later in the day. Watch the way it is reported in the news. Watch endless repeats. And you can add your own variation to a well-known theme.

Of course, this holiday season has its own patterns in every culture that celebrates it. It’s all too easy to grow cynical about Christmas and the way a materialistic society has tried to hijack it. However, it does give us an opportunity to reflect, not least on the miracle of the incarnation, the mind blowing truth that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself.(2 Cor.5.19) What an absolutely mind blowing scripture. God takes on flesh so that He can turn a world which has turned its back on Him into His friends. If you forget everything else from today’s post, please take this one thought and chew it over all over Christmas.

One of the amazing things about the miracle of Christmas is that the Christmas story is played out in the lives of ordinary people. And the story of God’s quest to turn people into His friends is still played out in the lives of ordinary people like you and me. Some of the themes and dynamics of the original Christmas story still have a resonance in our lives today.

So how would I complete the statement, Christmas is a good time too…? What would be a biblical way to end the statement?

Here are a few suggestions.

Christmas is a good time to suspend our desire for closure on painful relationships. The biggest threat to the incarnation project was not from Herod. Or the devil who was pulling his strings. It came from one of the most humble, understated characters in the Bible, Mary’s husband to be, Joseph. When he heard that Mary was pregnant, he decided to end the relationship (Matt.1.19). You can’t really blame him. Mary’s explanation was hardly credible. Joseph’s pain was understandable.

When we’re in pain, especially when it is connected to a relationship, and very especially when it is connected to a marriage, the desire for closure can feel irresistible. No doubt Joseph felt that way. But God stepped in (Matt.1.20-25)

Sadly, some divorce lawyers say that there is an increase on Christmas Day of what they call “text message bustings”, where one spouse discovers the other’s infidelity by reading his or her text messages. Christmas can be a painful time.

I’ve been a pastor for over twenty years. I’ve seen a lot of painful situations, but none I find more heartbreaking than the collapse and dissolution of a marriage. I’ve also been a pastor long enough to realise that people don’t always find healing in their relationship in the way Joseph and Mary did. Whatever the ultimate outcome of any relationship difficulties, Christmas is a good time to suspend our desire for closure and give God a chance to work in our relationships.

Christmas is also a good time to set a priority on connecting with family. 

For many people in our society, family has almost become the f-word. But God loves families. Not just the nuclear family, but the big extended families that we are all part of whether we like them or not! Some of you might think that you have a nuclear family – because it goes into nuclear meltdown every Christmas!

When Mary discovered she was pregnant, the angel Gabriel told her that her cousin Elizabeth was also pregnant (Lk.1.39-45). The young, most likely teenage, woman and her elderly cousin, were experiencing the joy of God’s blessing. God was doing something special in both of their lives.

Of course Mary and Elizabeth are unique in the plans and purposes of God. But God’s plans and purposes aren’t unique to them. We’re all part of the story. Christmas is a good time to believe that God is at work in our families and to make it a goal to connect with them.

Finally, Christmas is a good time to re-centre on Christ.

When a baby is born, it changes everything in a family. The whole focus of attention shifts to the baby. Everything centres around the new born.

Everything focuses on Jesus. The whole story centres around Him. Mary and Joseph head to Bethlehem, because of Him. Shepherds leave their fields and flocks, because of Him. The Magi make a journey from Iraq, because of Him.

And after they have met with Him they are changed. The shepherds go back to their flocks changed men (Lk. 2.17-20). The Magi go home by a different route (Matt. 2.12). Joseph and Mary leave Bethlehem for Egypt instead of Nazareth (Matt. 2.13-14).

When you centre your life on Jesus, things change. Your future is different to what it might otherwise have been.

As Queen Lucy says in The Last Battle, “In our world too, a Stable once had something inside it that was bigger than our whole world.”

Once you’ve met with the One who is bigger than the whole world, Christmas is never the same again. Life is never the same again.

Christmas is a good time to recentre on Christ.

Happy Christmas.

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