Christmas in the post-War United States

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It’s been a strange Christmas this year; First of all the snow came earlier and heavier than expected which meant that it’s been a round of cancelling services and meetings. At one point for a week the village we lived in was totally blocked in with supplies just getting occasionally to the one shop in the village but being sold out within minutes ! Quite scary really.

Secondly, a variety of colleagues took poorly or were caught up with family concerns and this added to the difficulty of preparation, as my mind was elsewhere.

Thirdly, my Dad who normally comes for Christmas had the opportunity to spending it with his first great-grandchild and who would deny him that opportunity. I telephoned him on Christmas Day and it was lovely to hear him laughing and enjoying Hannah`s company. However, for us the family seemed incomplete as he has come to us for the last 17 years.

Fourthly, I think that being in a new house and surrounded by packing cases gave it all a surreal feel. We even discovered that the Christmas tree had lost two of its legs in the move and therefore couldn`t be erected. We had to go out and buy a new one.

All of these things in themselves may not have seemed much, but together  seemed to conspire to take some of the edge off the occasion.

On the other side however, we did have Rebecca, Vikki and her boyfriend Tom to stay with us and it was lovely to spend the day with them and it gave me a chance to wait on them all a little bit. I felt as though I was playing the part of my own Dad as I served egg sandwiches for breakfast !  Added to that Rebecca made a cracking Christmas dinner.

It’s interesting to think of what makes a Christmas good or bad, or more usually in-between . We put so much trust in the cooking, the cards, the traditions and so on that when anything is missing we genuinely grieve over its loss. This year for the first time we didn`t fill stockings and I found myself missing the youngsters (and Dad) not opening them, even though the same things are put in year after year.

But what really matters ? Well, I`ve found myself dwelling on the Gospel of Luke this year. Chapter 2 mentions that there was no room in the inn; well, that’s as it should be because inns, hotels and the like speak of something transitory and Jesus didn`t enter  the world as if it was a drive-thru. But he came to stay. Jesus wasn’t a paying guest here for a short time, but someone who intended to stay.

Secondly, the manger has spoken to me very much of Jesus coming to feed is people; spiritual food which we all need. The manger was the place the animals would feed from. In a similar way we need to learn to feed from all that Jesus gives; we need to be people of prayer, scripture and worship and adding to that our reasoning and our experience.

Thirdly, the shepherds were ordinary people just like me. I`m amazed that God in his Heaven cared enough to be born amongst ordinary people, not Kings or rulers. This Christmas I`ve been reminded again of a God who cares for ordinary folk, but asks something  extraordinary of us. The shepherds told others of what they had seen, earning them (no doubt)ridicule, reputation and possibly even their jobs. God asks us to do something extraordinary………………to tell others of our experience.

You see that’s what really matters: Jesus come to earth to stay, to feed and to lift up the ordinary. And our response is to go out and tell others.

I pray that this season has brought peace, love and joy to you and I also pray that the New Year will be a very blessed time for all.

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