by Rev. Mark Bond, Rector
AS we begin the rounds of Christmas celebrations how many times and in how many places will you sing 'Away In A Manger'? How many turkey dinners will you eat, with or without Christmas pudding flamed with brandy? How many carol services or Christmas concerts will you attend? What about the Christmas cards you will receive from the people you never see or speak to, and haven't had any contact with since last Christmas? And of course we mustn't forget about all those Christmas parties - it's what our Christmas is all about - or is it?
What do we mean when we talk about the 'spirit of Christmas'? Do we mean all these things and more? Do we mean the look of awe and wonder on a little child's face when they see the Christmas lights in town, or when they visit Santa's grotto and see Father Christmas with his reindeer. Do we mean the ghosts of Christmas past, present and future, as mentioned in Dickens Christmas Carol, that classic Christmas story that some people never tire of watching on TV. Or do we actually mean all the alcohol that will be consumed in the name of celebrating, but will in some cases, cause more pain and suffering as a result of over-indulgence.
I think the real spirit of Christmas is found in the characters in the nativity story, the reason that we, the church, celebrate at this time of year. The Spirit of Christmas is found in the obedience of a girl called Mary who said yes to God's call on her life. It is found in the faith of Joseph who stood by his betrothed when she told him she was pregnant (and not by him). The real Spirit of Christmas is seen in the joy of the angels as they sang 'glory to God in the highest' and in the response of the shepherds as they hurried to see the new baby. It is found not only in the Spirit of giving with which the Magi gave gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh, possibly knowing the reason behind their gifts, but also in the spirit in which those gifts were received despite their apparent unsuitability for a new baby.
So this Christmas, what will be your approach to the season? Will it be with the 'bah humbug' of Scrooge who appears to have no reason to celebrate? Will it be with the commercialism of a secular world that has forgotten the reason for the season? Or will you find the time, this year, to seek out the Spirit of peace and love, in a little baby born to a young couple who gave of themselves and received countless blessings from God?