Christmas is one of the highlights of the Christian year and a time of great celebration. The wonderful mystery of God’s dwelling among us in the fullness of humanity, as Emmanuel, foretold by the prophets and born of Mary, provides the material of the feast.
Matthew Chapter 1, v 18-23
18 Now the birth of Jesus the Messiah took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been engaged to Joseph, but before they lived together, she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. 19 Her husband Joseph, being a righteous man and unwilling to expose her to public disgrace, planned to dismiss her quietly. 20 But just when he had resolved to do this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, ‘Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife, for the child conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will bear a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.’ 22 All this took place to fulfil what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet:
23 ‘Look, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel’, which means, ‘God is with us.’
We celebrate the mystery of God coming to live among humanity as one of us in the person of Jesus, son of Mary, the saviour promised by the prophets of the Old Testament.
This great feast that marks the anniversary of Jesus' birth has inspired the many joyful customs and traditions that we use to mark Christmas. Many of these - carols, cribs, decorations, and special foods - are shared with and enjoyed by millions of people across the world. But there is more than tinsel, trees and reindeer. There is amazement, wonder and joy here.
It is Christ’s nativity that has provided the occasion for this festival of the incarnation, since the end of the third century. The Christmas crib and the nativity play can both be said to descend from the tableau of Christ’s birth that Francis of Assisi arranged when he celebrated Christmas at Greccio in 1223. Christmas carols are a medieval tradition, which has been notably developed from the end of the nineteenth century. The Festival of Lessons and Carols is itself an influential English creation of the late nineteenth century, made widespread by the choir of King’s College, Cambridge, in the first half of the twentieth.
The gospel accounts of the first Christmas provide so many ways for us to enter into the mystery of God becoming human. There are hosts of angels filling the night sky with singing; a group of astounded shepherds on a hillside who find their lives and expectations turn upside down; there is a shining star and the birth of a child, which, like many other births before and since, bring hope and possibility.
And the readings for Christmas day - including the prologue to John's gospel - invite us to look beyond the joy of Jesus' birth to the significance of his life, and the saving power of his future death and resurrection.
The season of Christmas lasts for twelve days, culminating in another feast - that of the Epiphany on 6th January, when we recall how Jesus was first revealed to the wider world in the visit of the Magi (or Wise Men).
“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” — Romans 15:13
Christmas is a time for enjoying the riches of grace that God lavishes upon us and having fun as a community in the presence of the Lord. It is also important to remember that Christmas can be a very lonely time for some people as not everyone is surrounded by family and friends; some people may be facing Christmas alone without the company of a partner or loved one who has died.
A CHRISTMAS PRAYER
by being born one of us,
and lying humbly in a manger,
you show us how much God loves the world.
Let the light of your love
always shine in our hearts,
until we reach our home in heaven,
and see you on your throne of glory.