“It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas, everywhere you go”, as the song reminds us. Indeed, the recent cold snap makes everything look a little more festive, with the frost-laden trees and snow covering the ground; even the holly berries seem more vibrant and sing in the winter sun - before you spot the yellow snow beneath them, which reminds you that the dog has recently visited the spot.
There is arguably a lot of pressure on people today to prepare and produce the perfect Christmas, with various adverts showing tables laden with food and all the family smiling and getting on famously. Obviously, the creators of such adverts have failed to experience the impatience of a grandchild who is bored and doesn’t care about the caramelization of the roasted veg, his mother who is trying to entertain his younger sibling who has decided that the candles look tastier than the food. Whose sister is so full of chocolate, her protests of a ‘tummy ache’ become a stark reality as she regurgitates the tube of smarties and the entire chocolate orange consumed not an hour before all over the table. All whilst great grandad re-tells his cracker joke in the hope that someone might laugh!
Unfortunately, disappointment can lie in the gap between expectation and reality, as things never go perfectly (at least in our household). It is too easy to end up feeling frazzled under all the stress, and in the process of looking after everyone else, you lose sight of what is important, what is holy and special about this time of year. As someone wisely observed, ‘Christmas is a time for reflection, not perfection.’
During the Christmas season, we re-tell the story of Jesus’ birth. We know the story, the back story and even the end of the story. Jesus’s birth and life are a narrative of hope that transcends time. It is the dawning of a new age, a new hope that began with a fragile and vulnerable infant born in a stable amidst poverty, death, and darkness. This child was determined to be born; this God committed to come. Even and especially to the darkest, most crowded, miserable, and unwanted places. This is where God is born, small, vulnerable, but filled with life to light the world.
As our routine changes over the festive season, we become more aware of our failures, disappointments, and worries. Time can be the cruel gift that gives us the space to consider the health of a loved one, our financial strains, and concerns about what is happening across the globe. Equally, our disillusionment and uncertainty about the church and lack of quality time with God can haunt us, and Christmas can end up feeling quite dark.
If any of this resonates with you, be encouraged that Christ was born in the darkest, shut-out corner of the world, in an occupied land, amongst the excrement and smell of animals. Not the perfect scene so often depicted in the cards we exchange. Similarly, I believe God is being birthed in our lives in the deepest, darkest, shut-out corners. Amidst the pain of unanswered prayer, feuding families, frustration, disillusionment, and a sense of being far from God – this is where I believe Christ is being re-born.
So don’t give yourself a hard time about not being a perfect witness, a better Christian, or a more agreeable host amidst the hectic pace of life. Be you; it is who God loves, and it is in whom Jesus is being birthed. Be kind to yourself, take a breath and remember Christmas is a time for reflection, not perfection.
Luke 1:14 “He will be a joy and delight to you, and many will rejoice because of his birth.”
This is our last reflection before the holidays so, on behalf of the team at RM,
Happy Christmas. Our reflections will be back on the 8th January.
CEO, Rural Ministries