With respect to this blog, I really took on a task I couldn't complete. I wanted to make a personal reflection based on all three Christmas services but there was simply too much material to cover. Then Christmas wasn't quite as I expected it to be, so the following is the result.
In the weeks approaching this Christmas season I resolved to concentrate on the real meaning of Christmas and, while taking part in the exchange of presents and celebratory meals, I would keep my mind and heart open to God's message to me during that time.
Doing that turned out to be more difficult than I thought. Physical problems resulted in my ending up in a great deal of pain and instead of spreading God's love to those around me I became taciturn and irritable. Then, maybe as a result of that pain, but certainly because of having lived more years than the rest of my family, I found I couldn't keep up.
Then there is all the terrible news in the media: avoidable traffic accidents; mistreatment of people, especially children, by other people; wars; financial dishonesty; the appalling attitudes to refugees and asylum seekers and the disgusting amount of money spent on "partying" which could have been spent much more effectively elsewhere. I almost lost the message of Christmas in it all.
However, I realized that these are the very circumstances that caused Jesus' appearance on Earth. There's nothing new about any of the situations mentioned above. It is exactly because we are the way we are and exactly because the world is the way it is that Jesus came to show us a new way. The hope he brought wasn't a once and for all thing. Each new generation and each individual has to learn the lesson taught by Jesus and the life he lived.
As Jan said in the Christmas Day prayer of Intercession: "The beauty and joy of Christmas shows up the stark contrast between the hopes we celebrate and some of the realities of our world. We will not be discouraged or afraid. We will trust the good tidings that come to us here, and commit once again to be bearers of blessing to a world in need."
And because we are the way we are, we needed to confess our many unloving thoughts and actions and ask, in Jan's words "Forgive us, loving God...we wait in humble faith to receive your kindness, O God.
As was said at another time. Our spirit is willing but our flesh is weak. Because of this, despite our many failings, we could genuinely sing God's praises with enormous enthusiasm.
We sang, on Christmas Eve, "O Come all, ye Faithful," despite not always being faithful, and with just as much enthusiasm, "Hark the Herald Angels Sing," with heartfelt wishes for "peace on Earth" and "God and sinners reconciled" despite not always being the bearers of peace and despite deliberately stepping out of the path God has set before us.
And it's OK. But how can it be Ok? Because God knows our weakness. "This Christ knows all that we face and walks the way with us, calling us towards a new day." And we are forgiven! We are forgiven! We are forgiven! Thanks be to God.
But even with that message, my Christmas went off-track even before the Christmas season was complete. But there is always the potential to follow the right path; we always have another chance to repent and seek God's will.
We sang the carol, "We three Kings of Orient Are" on Sunday and it made me think that we are given so many signs to follow that lead us to God. And we want to follow those signs. We know God is the answer to that yearning to be whole. We have no doubt about that at all. Yet when it comes to following, we always have reasons for going down side-tracks or taking a break from the journey. Total commitment is so scary!
Yet, there is never any end to God's willingness to hold out his arms to us.
We confess that we do not act in peaceful ways, that we sometimes prefer darkness to God's Light and that we think we have the right to choose who will make up God's kingdom. And because he is merciful, we are forgiven for it all.
So. Jan was able, in full confidence, to send us out:
"Go into the world with a spirit of strength and hope, determined to be the children of God and filled with dreams of a new day."
Amen, Amen and Amen to that.