I love Christmas. I love the magic of it. The lights, the mince pies, the smell of cinnamon everywhere, the mulled wine, the Santa outfits, the friends and family gatherings and the giving and receiving of gifts. It’s great. For me though, Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas if it also wasn’t a time to remember my faith; to visit a church, to sing a carol or two, to say prayers for those in need, to remember those who have passed and to be still, to make time to reflect on the true meaning of Christmas. Sometimes in the busyness of this season we can forget that the real reason behind the season was love. It was discovering this message, many years ago at a midnight mass in a local church, that opened my eyes to the beauty of Christianity and it’s message has continued to influence my life ever since.
When I see our world and all it’s pain, when I hear about the rising number of families going hungry, the number of people who will be homeless this Christmas, or the growing negativity of peoples attitudes to those in need, I can sometimes despair and think nothing will change. Then, I meet Margo in her 80’s who volunteers each week in helping vulnerable women or Brian who even after severe health issues is dedicating his life to helping homeless men or Trevor who earns maybe a third of what he could be, delivering counseling to people in need and trauma. I hear about how the leader of the Church of England is standing up to our nations leaders and calling them to tackle hunger and poverty and it gives me faith. It gives me faith that beyond religion, The Church continues to be a source of hope and love in our society. It gives me faith, that this movement that began with a baby being born to an unmarried, foreign, homeless teenage mum in a stable, all those years ago is still a voice of challenge and change into our nation.
As I looked into what is happening across the churches in Teesside, alongside the many, many carol services, Christmas fairs and nativity plays, I also found things like Christmas lunches for the homeless, Christmas hamper collections for the hungry, fundraising appeals for local charities, counseling services for those struggling with debt and pamper days for single mums and I was blown away. I know we don’t all believe in religion, or even have faith to believe that the baby that was born in a manger was the son of God, but I hope this Christmas, all of us can believe in and be inspired by love.
So as we tuck into our Christmas lunch this year, sing ‘Away in a Manger’ or watch our children dressed up as shepherds or angels in their plays, I hope each of us can take a moment to reflect on the real message of Christmas and consider how in 2015 we could maybe be inspired by that message, to love each other more, to care about the hungry and the homeless, to live more compassionately, to be a voice of challenge when we see injustice and to be good news in our communities.
Wishing you a very Merry Christmas