Minister's Monthly Letter
In wedding preparation meetings I use a sheet of questions which the prospective bride and groom answer but for each other! One of the questions is “What would your partner think was a perfect Christmas day?” Typically food, company, presents and location loom large in the answers with time off and sleep coming further down the list.
The shadows of these likes can be caught in the statistics for the Christmas season. The average home spends about £620 at Christmas – about £400 on gifts, £150 on food and drink and £70 on socialising. The total spend (adjusted for inflation) has decreased slightly over the last ten years. Nevertheless mental health charities report that many worry about this cost which is often met by taking risky levels of credit. As a knock-on, financial worries can have an impact on mental health and lead to serious problems such as stress, anxiety and depression.
The social pressures of Christmas can be very difficult as well and early January is the busiest time of year for divorce lawyers.
I am writing this in mid November two weeks before the start of Advent when the church will start to think about the child born at Bethlehem, his coming and the ultimate expectation of God rescuing all of creation. In former times Christmas carols would not have been sung before Christmas Eve. Now however the “Christmas season” has already been ushered in with the seasonal competition between supermarkets and department stores.
What might help us to stay grounded in the story of Jesus’ birth this Advent and Christmas?
Last December I attended a Carol Service for “Crisis” the charity for single homeless people. Whilst offering support all year at Christmas they provide companionship and support to tackle loneliness and isolation, and help people take their first steps out of homelessness in London, Newcastle and Edinburgh. At the service someone who had been a volunteer with the project for the last few years spoke in a moving way. They told of the powerful experience of helping others at Christmas which had helped them to see life and Christmas in a new way.
The speaker, who was not a person of faith, had not abandoned seasonal preparations, food, friends etc - but spoke of how life had been enriched by a new perspective.
What simple action or prayer or verse of scripture might, if held steadily in the coming days, enable you to find or be found afresh by God’s love?
This Christmas may we truly know the joy of the child born into the midst of our lives and celebrate his presence in the year ahead.