From the Minister
December - January
From the Minister
December 2019 – January 2020
It’s not very often I want to give my letter a title, but this month I would like to call it ‘Christmas in three dimensions’! It seems to me that Christmas celebrations are getting increasingly one dimensional as preparations start just after Bonfire Night with all the focus on the One Big Day, the 25th December. We shop, we prepare, we rush and then we are left on 26th December either with a slight feeling of anti-climax or heaving a huge sigh of relief ‘I’m glad that is over for another year!’
In Christian tradition celebration of the season falls into three parts and lasts from the beginning of December to the start of February. Before Christmas we mark Advent, traditionally a time of prayer and reflection to prepare, not just for the birth of Jesus, but for the coming of God in judgement. Advent is a time of awesome expectation, of waiting in hope and in the knowledge that God has a plan and purpose for his world.
Christmastide doesn’t begin until the eve of 24th December when we celebrate the birth of Jesus and retell the story of how Immanuel, God with us, is born in a stable, to an ordinary human family where all can come and celebrate. This is when our Advent hope becomes joy. However the celebrations last not one day, but twelve, until 6th January. After waiting there is time to savour the good news to the full.
Then on 6th January we remember the visit of the Magi to Jesus and we begin the season of Epiphany, literally ‘showing’ or ‘manifestation’. We have celebrated the coming of Jesus and now we begin to understand who He is and what His coming might mean. Traditionally in church we hear accounts of Jesus’ baptism, his first miracle and his first ‘sermon’, all of which help us to understand the Good News of God’s love. Epiphany finishes with the celebration of Jesus presentation in the Temple when we hear the words of Simeon describing Jesus as ‘a light to lighten the nations’.
If like me you are a bit disillusioned by the one dimensional approach to Christmas, perhaps you might like to try something different this year? Reclaim Advent by making time each day to be quiet and reflect, read a book of Advent readings and exchange Christmas carols for Advent carols. Perhaps you might wish to put Christmas decorations up a bit later and leave them up until 6th January to mark Christmastide (some countries even keep Christmas trees until 2nd February!). Sing carols after Christmas, save gifts to last for the whole twelve days and savour the story of Jesus’ birth through Epiphany. Throw Christmas parties in the New Year to remember the joy that has come into the world and whatever you choose to do may you have a truly three dimensional Christmas remembering the promise of God, the joy of the Christ Child and the life changing power of Jesus Christ.