From the vicarage December 2012

Ho, ho, ho!!! ‘Tis the season to be jolly. Fa-la-la-la-la, la-la-la-la-la. The UK is about to host the biggest birthday party of the year, again. Even bigger than the Torch Relay and the Olympics, bigger than the Queen’s Golden Jubilee. Christmas Day will be massive. We’ll scoff around 10,000,000 turkeys and 250,000,000 mince pies. We’ll splurge £20,000,000,000 on food, presents and parties. It’s going to be a blast. Right?

The irony of the festive season is that Christmas Day holds so much promise and yet it often disappoints. So, how can we overcome any feeling that Christmas isn’t all it’s cracked up to be?

We’ve just come to the end of the book of Ruth in our sermon series. I have been really impressed by Boaz. God has left a mark on me through his witness. Remember that Ruth was a poor, destitute foreign widow, living in Israel? She had nothing to look forward to but trusted God with her life. And God stepped in, at just the right time, by providing a family-redeemer for her. There were two men who come to Ruth’s rescue, but there was a great difference between the first family-redeemer and Ruth’s second, Boaz. The first family-redeemer would not rescue Ruth from her poverty, his attitude was “What’s in it for me?” I find that my attitude can be dangerously close to his at Christmas, as I ask “what’s in it for me?” The whole round of choosing, wrapping and giving gifts as well as receiving them can create all sorts of joy but also disappointment. I find I can be really easily disappointed when someone’s gift to us is not what I had hoped for or think I deserve. I ask, “what’s in this for me?” Christmas Day itself can be a time of great fun or of disgruntled disputes, as we squabble over what’s on TV or wonder who ate all the family chocolates and ask “What’s in this day for me?”

On the Miranda Christmas Special, repeated on TV last month, Miranda decides to skip Christmas with her parents, because her mum obsesses about Christmas Day, trying to make it perfect. Miranda’s friends opt to spend Christmas at Miranda’s flat instead. So Gary, Tilly, Clive and Stevie plan to create a new style Christmas. But before lunch everything has gone pear-shaped, because all five of them want everything their own way and they are each thinking “what’s in this for me?” So, they cancel Christmas at Miranda’s and pile over to her mum’s where the day is great, because her mum has thought of everything to make Christmas perfect.

And in the book of Ruth, God reveals through her second family-redeemer how to avoid any disappointment. When we think “it’s my duty to make Christmas great for others” and “how can I show my love to others” then the sacrifices we make for others are what makes us feel blessed. It should feel good to do good.

Ask yourself it you could stretch the principle of loving others beyond your own families and friends? The YMCA is looking for volunteers to host a lunch for elderly folk who would otherwise be alone on Christmas Day. They need drivers, minibus escorts, hosts, cooks, dishwashers and entertainers. The Church Urban Fund estimates that 70,000 kids will be homeless in the UK this Christmas. If you know someone who is sleeping on the floor of a friend or relative, think about how to include them in your Christmas celebrations. Make it your duty to love others this Christmas, and make sacrifices to make room at your inn. By doing this, you will put into action the love of God in the birth of Jesus Christ, the eternal Son of God, who left the riches of heaven to be born in a stable. He lived a life of doing good and healing people, as he taught with all the authority of God himself. And then he went willingly to the cross, under duty to the law of God and with great love in his heart for his heavenly Father and for lost sinners, to reconcile us to God, as we sing in that great Christmas Hark! The herald angels sing”.

As we celebrate Christmas with great joy, let’s battle back the urge to ask “what’s in it for me?” and instead as “what should I do for God and others in love?” Then we’ll find true Christmas blessings.

With love at Christmas, Neil

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