Unwrapping Christmas

If somehow you could strip away all the trappings of your life and faith as a
Christian, what would be left? What should be left?
This is a question that I ask myself from time to time, to check that I’m not
simply worshipping the church, friends, comfort, family, or any of the other
blessings that God has given, instead of worshipping him.

If it were all stripped away, would I still be found worshipping Jesus, or would I
feel lost, left cold-hearted without all of the things I had relied upon?
I’ve been thinking about this again as Christmas approaches because, like
many, I am in danger of losing the heart of the celebration in the whirl of
parties, family get-togethers, carol services, food and gifts.

Would I still feel like celebrating if there were no parties, no presents, no
carols by candlelight, and no Marks and Spencers’ adverts on TV?
If everything else was stripped away, all of the trappings of Christmas that we
enjoy and associate with this time of year, we would still be abundantly
blessed! Immanuel – God with us! The infinite, eternal Son of God made flesh
so that we might rejoice in our salvation and have peace with God (see Luke
Chapter 2).

How can we make sure that we don’t spend Christmas talking about Jesus,
singing about him, giving presents to others because of him, and so on,
without worshipping in wonder and gratitude for the gift of the Saviour whom
we are celebrating?

One thing that I try to make sure of is quality time spent in Scripture, reading
the Christmas story in the gospels, plus all of the interwoven prophecies and
expectation of the Old Testament, so that my understanding of the events we
are celebrating is fresh and poignant.

And secondly, because I’m an extrovert – I need to make sure that some of
this time is just me, one on one with God, so that he can speak, and I can listen
closely.

But I’m sure there should be a corporate element, too. I’m certainly looking
forward to the Christmas services at Cambray. But I’m also challenging myself
about the content of my conversations.

When I’m talking with friends about Christmas, is it just about whether they’ve
done their Christmas shopping yet, or if they are putting a tree up? Shouldn’t I
also be eager to speak of the amazement I feel that God would send his Son to earth?
Shouldn’t I be encouraging others by reminding them that this message is ‘good news of great joy for all people’.

I don’t mean that we should fill our conversations with false piety or over-spiritualise everything (I am very excited about my Christmas tree!).

But I do hope that as I spend more time reflecting on Jesus Christ, and what it means for him to be our Saviour, as I appreciate the peace he ushered in with his birth, and marvel at the glory of God in a tiny baby; this will naturally and joyfully flavour my thoughts and conversations as Christmas draws near.

Hark the herald angels sing
‘Glory to the newborn King!
Peace on earth and mercy mild
God and sinners reconciled.’
Joyful, all ye nations rise
Join the triumph of the skies
With the angelic host proclaim:
‘Christ is born in Bethlehem’

Naomi Clemo
December 2013

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