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December 2015

From the Rectory

As I write this, it’s mid November and the Christmas Adverts are in full swing. The releasing of the seasonal commercial blockbusters isn’t confined to cinemas any more.

John Lewis has had decorations up since about the start of October, mince pies have been available since the schools went back in September! Perhaps it is true that all this seems to happen earlier and earlier each year. Whether we throw our hands up in horror and exclaim that it’s not even Advent yet, or embrace the coming festivities, we cannot escape that Christmas, with all that it brings and all that it means is just around the corner.

There is a conflict within us about the early preparation; it can highlight the commercialisation of Christmas, the over emphasis on consumption and the material, but anticipation is good for us too. It’s just all about how we do it and why.

The Jews had been waiting for centuries for the promised Messiah – the anointed one of God. They had prophecies and promises to hold on to, but they saw very little in the way of concrete evidence that God was going to turn up and transform their world. They had lived through Exile and persecutions, their own land was occupied by a series of enemy armies and was currently under Roman rule. They had no trailers or adverts other than the prophets’ words, just faith and hope, and a trust in the God who had saved them out of slavery, and exile and would keep his promises.

We prepare to celebrate Christmas by keeping Advent, the time when we focus on the waiting. Waiting for Jesus; come as a baby to be God among us, a past event that is with us now; a happening in history we celebrate because it is not simply about the past.

Like God’s people of old, we are also waiting for the fulfilment of God’s Kingdom.

Like them we don’t always see concrete evidence of what is to come; the brokenness of our world is all too obvious. However, we have had a sneak preview in Jesus, and we live in that time of now and not yet; like children seeing the decorations in the shops, preparing, but not yet having the full experience.

As we prepare practically for Christmas, in church and at home, we’re reminded that we need to prepare too for the coming of God’s Kingdom. Not just in Advent or Christmas but all year round, if we “wish it could be Christmas every day” as the song says, then the reality of that is working and living for the Kingdom every day.

There is always a lot of talk about the “war on Christmas”, a perception that “they” are preventing the real celebration of Jesus’ birth, obscuring the real meaning of Christmas, only allowing “happy Holidays” (which of course means Holy days in any case…!) or Winter Celebrations.

The real war on Christmas happens when we forget what Jesus came to do, how he came to make a difference and what our place is in growing his kingdom. He came as God made flesh, living among us; part of our world, our lives; welcoming the poor, the outcast, the refugee and those damaged and hurt by society in so many ways. We are called with him to love our world: feeding the hungry, healing the sick and proclaiming the Good News of the Kingdom. Jesus lived himself as a displaced person, and he calls us to build and work not for an earthly nation or Kingdom, but his Kingdom of love, justice and peace.

“Of the increase of his government and of peace there shall be no end” Isaiah 9:7