There are many stories around Christmas. Some we find in the bible and others that have been gathered over the years. Christmas stories are a bit like a giant snowball that grows as it rolls down the hill. What’s at the core?
At the core is a truth that God is with us. A story of a humble beginning – a baby born to a young woman, in an occupied land where life was harsh and brutal. They are visited by the poor local shepherds who bring themselves and nothing much else, and by wise travellers from lands afar with expensive gifts, and in this simple story is a truth of something extraordinary about how and where we find God in the world. Just think about that for a moment. Forget about all the other stuff, and wonder about that, because that is the core of the snowball that is Christmas.
It is a core that does not diminish. It is a core that is always there: that God is with us.
Because of this core truth of Christmas, I always keep a few small Christmas decorations around me all year round. This last year I have had an angel that I made last Christmas on a bookcase next to my desk and a star hangs just above where I sit. For 2024 I think I will add the miniature Christmas tree I made just where it is now, in my eyeline each time I look up as I work. I do this to remind myself that the core truth of Christmas – God with us in everything – does not disappear once we get to January.
But I will do more than just keep a few decorations around me. I will also try and live this truth of God with us, because a crucial way we know God with us is in the way we live. Christmas is reminding me again to live with hope and to let my light shine. One of the truths of the birth of Jesus that we read in the bible is that the light shines in the darkness of the world and the darkness does not overcome it. The light shines on and on. It shines on in you and in me. It shines even when the world is harsh and brutal – just as it was when Jesus was born.
Letting our light shine can mean many things. One such thing is living hope. I read these words in The Guardian this week from Lea Ypi, a professor in political theory in the government department at the London School of Economics: “Being hopeful has nothing to do with how the world goes. It’s a kind of duty, a necessary complement to morality. What is the point of trying to do the right thing if we have no reason to think others do the same? What is the point of holding others responsible if we think responsibility is beyond their capacity? Hope is the opposite of nihilism. Paradoxically, the worse the world goes, the more hopeful you must remain to be able to continue fighting. Being hopeful is not about guaranteeing the right outcome but preserving the right principle: the principle based on which a moral world makes sense.”
The words in the image this week are from Howard Thurman, who lived in the struggle of the Civil Rights movement in the States. He supported and advised Martin Luther-King Jr, and lives on today in his wisdom.
From Mary saying yes and shepherds and wise travellers coming to visit, through to us living hope and keeping the light shining, the core of Christmas will live on, for the child Jesus is called Emmanuel in the bible, which means God with us, and the light shines in the darkness and will not be overcome.
May you know the truth and light of God’s presence in the world this Christmas and into 2024.
If you want to talk about anything, please send us a message and I’ll get back to you as soon as I can – but be aware I’m off now until January 3rd.
Every blessing, Rev. Anne.