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Though Christmas is usually seen as the season for giving and receiving gifts, for
sharing food and fun with our families and friends - and let me say there is nothing
wrong with any of these - I suspect all of them miss the mark of that which is the
central core of the 'reason for the season'. I think the essence of Christmas is really
in what God did for us - no, not what he gave us! To give a gift is simply to hand over
of the ownership of something to another person - even if lots of effort is spent in
trying to choose the 'right' gift so as to convey the right message! God did not give us
Jesus - rather he sent him so as to do something for us. There is a popular saying that
people may forget your name, they may forget what you said, but the will never forget
how you made them feel. And how true this is and a reminder that it is what we do for
people that matters most!
When the child Jesus, whose birth we celebrate at Christmas, was born in the back of a small town in Judea 2000 or so years ago, God did many things, not least to reach out to us and tell us how he feels about us. The child was born in a borrowed stable as there was no one willing to find a young mother-to-be a more appropriate place to give brith, which reminds us that God does not force himself onto anyone; we have to be willing to accept him, to make room for him. The child was born to ordinary working parents, which reminds us that God does not distinguish between class or status; no one is too lowly for God to love them! The birth of the child was not announced so that all would hear, but rather signs were given so that all could hear ... and respond, but only if they wished to!
In sending Jesus, what God did for us was to come to us, to live among us so that we might get to know him and see his love and care and concern for us.
If then, as I believe, this is the message of Christmas, it is a message which will live long after the turkey and mince pies have been eaten, long after family and friends have returned home and long after the decorations have been put away for another year; it is the timeless message - Emmanuel - God with us! Now how does that make you feel?
So as we move into and through the Christmas season I invite you to join in any of our activities and services and listen to the story again and discern for yourself just what God did for you and how that makes you feel. It should be a reason for joy, peace and hope, and maybe to raise within you the response of love toward God and those around you. And maybe you might even feel inspired to take up the Bible Society's Advent challenge to do 24 deeds of kindness during Advent so others too can feel they are blessed!