I’m dreaming of a good Christmas…

I asked my daughters to give me the first three memories that came to mind when they thought about childhood Christmases. Touchingly they were unable to stop at three. Some of these included:
- making mince pies with mum
- putting the Christmas tree up in the afternoon after the last day of school, after pushing it home on dad’s bike
- singing in church
- the Christmas we spent in a cottage in Teesdale, away from it all, with only what we could fit in the car, the food shopping done on Christmas Eve in a local supermarket – enjoying a simpler, freer Christmas.
- singing Christmas songs at the tops of our voices in the car
- driving to Grandma’s house for Christmas with all the hedges and trees and fields thickly trimmed with frost
- hanging stockings from the fireplace, opening stockings at 2 am
- taking part in the church nativity play when very little

No mention of ‘the time I got a barbie coach / mobile phone / furby / polly pocket / play mobile pirate ship. No mention of ‘the time the Christmas dinner featured that amazing array of stuffings’ or ‘the table was just perfectly set’. Not even a mention of the expensive trips to see Father Christmas. But just time spent together, doing those Christmassy things together.

It seems to me that at the moment the world is full of so much uncertainty and anxiety that we need to remember what it is that really matters. That is not to say that say that what happens – or doesn’t happen – with Brexit isn’t important. It is – and many from industry to hospitals, from businesses to farmers are understandably worrying about the impact it may have. But amidst all the anxieties, the confusion of customs union and transition arrangements and backstops, and the threats of ‘no deal’ and cliff edges, let’s remember the good things in our lives, the things that go towards making memories, the things that bring us fulness and joy.

At Christmas we have so much to celebrate – Christmas brings us the message that God loves each one of us enough to become one of us so that we could know his presence in our lives, know the joy and peace and fulness of life that he brings. At a time when we remember God crossing the gulf that separates us, let’s enjoy it, but not by stressing ourselves further with too much expense, heavy and unrealistic expectations but by spending time enjoying one another’s company, enjoying a simpler freer Christmas.

So have yourselves a very merry Christmas and a peaceful New Year.

Alice

crib scene Love came down at Christmas,
Love all lovely, love divine;
Love was born at Christmas,
Star and angels gave the sign.
Worship we the Godhead,
Love incarnate, love divine;
Worship we our Jesus:
But wherewith for sacred sign?
Love shall be our token,
Love shall be yours and love be mine,
Love to God and to all men,
Love for plea and gift and sign.


November letter

poppy November is a time for remembering. 1 November is ‘All Saints Day’; 2 November is ‘All Souls Day’ when we remember the departed; 5 November is a ‘secular’ remembering - Guy Fawkes Day - and on 11 November we will mark 100 years since the end of the Great War. Of all the ‘rememberings’, 11 November is probably the most poignant as we think of the millions from so many countries who died on the various fronts, from the trenches in Belgium, to the mountains of Greece, to the beaches of Gallipoli. ‘Lest we forget’ will be the theme, and many words will be spoken about the horrors of war, the bravery, the sacrifices, the respect due, and ‘it must never happen again’….. But here we are, 100 years on, wars raging in many parts of the world, soldiers dying or receiving terrible life-changing injuries, civilians suffering and dying, and the major nations possibly initiating a new arms race.

We do remember – but, alas, we also ‘forget’. We say “it must never happen again”, but do little to create a climate in which ‘reconciliation’ is the aim, not ‘winning’. People often scoff at Christ’s teaching – “love your neighbour as yourself”, “turn the other cheek”, “go the second mile” – considering it unrealistic “if you give an inch they’ll take a mile” …. Our human nature strongly resists the idea of taking the interests of other people into account rather than putting our own interests first. But if we do not want war and strife, we need to put effort into learning the skills of negotiation that might bring about peaceful solutions to problems. And this applies to the whole gamut of human relationships from the family, to friendships, to the work place, the village, the town, the city, the nation, as well as internationally.

May the sacrifices of those who have died in war be the spur to us to resist conflict and negotiate reconciliation wherever we live, and move, and have our being. What better way of not forgetting those who have died in war than remembering to work for peace? Jesus said “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.” '