By Rt. Rev. Bishop Linda Nicholls
In a few days we will be celebrating Christmas.
In so many aspects our celebration is a long way from the humble surroundings of the Christ Child – a manger of hay, a mother and father far from home in a strange city, and a few, unschooled shepherds as visitors.
For most of us Christmases are filled with bustle and plenty as everyone seeks the perfect gift for friend and family; the stores, shops and streets are filled with twinkling lights; the house smells of Christmas baking; and we hear Christmas carols everywhere for now. We plan parties at work, at home and with family – and talk about needing space and time.
For others, Christmas is the heightened reminder that their life is not the picture perfect image of Christmas movies or advertisements – the poverty; the violence; the addictions; the lack of love are more painful than ever in the face of relentless cheer.
Through it all there remains the continuing cry to hear good news – news of peace in a world that cannot find a way to end wars; news of forgiveness and hope in the midst of broken hearts, broken relationships, broken promises; news of healing for the earth and for human beings. Hearts still yearn for these.
It is difficult to hear that good news in the midst of the high expectations, shopping frenzy and desire, this year, to have the perfect Christmas. The only way to hear the good news is to stop. It is to choose to listen to the heart of Christmas and to do that we need to be still.
Stop the wrapping, and baking, and worrying – and read the Good News from the Gospel of Matthew or Luke. Read it out loud as a family or for yourself on Christmas Eve or Christmas morning. Ponder the simplicity of the first Christmas – and the utter folly of God sending a baby to be the saviour of the world.
Read John 1 and ponder the mystery of this baby-God, from before time, come to live among us. Remember that this baby – so small and vulnerable – is the one who will grow into the man who will challenge us to follow him – to care for the poor, the sick and the lonely – to forgive and love – to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, visit those in prison.
How are we doing?
We need to hear the Good News – and then we need to BE the Good News. As those who have promised to follow Jesus, our lives are to show others what the birth of this baby has meant to the world. Be Good News this Christmas to your family – your friends – your neighbours and the strangers on the street. Be God’s forgiveness, grace and love – with joy!
May there be time in your Christmas to read and hear the Good News again and BE the Good News wherever you are!