Well very shortly it will be Christmas. I love Christmas, it has been the highlight of the year for me for over 50 years. As a kid I remember my mum and dad bringing our silver 5ft tree down from the attic and what excitement ensued! Mum would find more silver tinsel for our balding Christmas tree and I would get to work on untangling the fairy lights that had been carefully put away in January. Does anyone know how they get tangled in an attic space and why they never work when you plug them in? Christmas day would arrive and we would open our stockings before going downstairs to open the ‘big’ presents. Dad would always go down ahead of us to light the coal fire so it would be warm and welcoming. The presents were in two piles, one for my sister Corinne and one for me. Cor would tear them open and start playing with them immediately, whilst I was the one who had to take every piece of sellotape off individually and neatly put away the wrapping paper. (Sue wishes I was as tidy today!) Soon it was lunchtime and mum would get the 20lb turkey out (we ate turkey for days!) and we would feast to our heart’s content. Ahh definitely a Bisto moment!
As I have reflected on those happy memories it struck me that in our family tradition there was no place for Jesus. I honestly never gave him a thought, it wasn’t that we were anti God … he simply didn’t feature in our thinking. That said there were clues all around us of why we were celebrating Christmas but I had other things on my mind like bikes, Scalextric sets or Action Man figures. So what were the clues?
Unlike our battered and balding tree many of our friends had lovely evergreen trees. Christmas trees were introduced into the UK by Prince Albert in the 1840’s. The evergreen spoke of life, of hope in the winter season. Sadly we all go through such seasons. I recently led a funeral service for a dear friend, how I will miss him! But, as I shared at the service, the sadness we feel is tempered by the knowledge that one day we will see him again, because Christ has overcome death and my friend had placed his hope in the Son who loved him and gave his life for him.
Other clues include:
The lights on the tree which depict Jesus as the light of the world.
Mince pies were originally oval shaped to represent the manger and contained three spices to represent the three gifts brought by the Wise Men … Gold, Frankincense and Myrrh.
Holly symbolizes the crown of thorns he wore and the berries speak of the life he gave for us
The presents of course speak of God’s remarkable gift of Jesus to us. As someone once said: ‘At Christmas-time, when we receive presents we don’t really need, God offers us a gift we cannot do without.’
Let me finish with a tradition that is common in Poland, they call it the Festival of the Star.
On Christmas Eve they eat nothing until the first star appears, then they sit down to a feast, but here’s the bit I like, at the table they set an additional place, they want to invite Jesus into their Christmas celebrations! What a great idea!
Have a wonderful Christmas