I’m trying hard to look forward to Christmas… but at the risk of sounding quite like the Grinch, it’s hard. I’m already getting bored of seeing the shops full of Christmas things, the restaurants have been trying to get me to book for months, the themes of Christmas services have been planned for some time, and to top it all off…. It’s not a surprise: it’s a baby boy. I’ve heard the story before. And I’ve sung most of the carols before as well.
Right, that’s my moan out of the way. But sometimes Christmas can feel like a weight on our shoulders, a burden. In fact, there are several things that have become like burdens. Seeing the plight of refugees from Myanmar, and learning the stories of refugees stuck in France. Reading the stories of people whose lives are devastated by abuse. Listening to people who are struggling with their families or their neighbours.
Sometimes I just want to be by myself, with a Christmas scented candle in the peace and quiet of a news-less place.
My struggle with Christmas though is that I don’t believe in a God who thinks the way I do. God actually wants to be right in the middle of the things that I have just called ‘burdens’. The story of God, Immanuel, being with us in the midst of a burdened world challenges me (us?) to think again about how we hear stories.
I don’t know about the detail of the Christmas story… the gospels just seem to want us to believe that the important thing is that God is right in the middle of life. So maybe you are reading this is November, maybe in Advent, maybe at Christmas… just one word of ministerial advice to you: avoid being a Grinch (as I am tempted to be), and watch out, for even in the midst of the ordinary and in the weight of burdens God may well be right in the middle of everything.
May the journey of life, especially of Advent, lead us closer to the presence of God.