hope-is-a-starYou have probably already noticed the Christmas decorations and displays in stores. I believe it was just before Hallowe’en when I spotted my first one. The Santa Claus parade has come and gone which tells us that the Christmas shopping season is well underway! I find it a curious thing that before the kids are able to dress up and before we are able to honour our veteran’s, displays and advertising are reminding us that Old St. Nick will soon appear.

After all that is what the Christmas season is about, isn’t it? The holiday wars have been waged for a number of years. Is it the ‘holidays’ or is it ‘Christmas’? Depending on what you believe you will call it one thing or another. I am not one of those Christians who needs to ‘put Christ back in Christmas’. For me Christ has never left Christmas, rather I think many of us have enjoyed this holiday for the wrong reasons.

We gather with family and with friends. We celebrate over a meal and with gifts. It is and will remain a wonderful time. However, it says little about Christmas. Yes, we will attend church service on Christmas Eve and we will once again welcome the Christ child into our lives. We will then return home and the next morning we will open gifts and prepare to shop again on Boxing Day. Little thought remains of the little child born so long ago.

If it sounds like I am jaded well perhaps I am. I confess that even as a minister Christmas is not my favourite time of year. I dread Christmas and the expectations it brings. So little of these expectations have anything to do with Christmas. The expectation to buy gifts, attending gatherings or parties, listening to Christmas or holiday songs for a full month, none of it fills me with cheer.

Now, before you go calling me a Grinch let me share why. When I consider the miracle of the nativity story I feel the joy of Mary and Joseph. I tremble with the fear and wonder that the shepherds must have felt. I share the wisdom and curiosity the magi must have experienced. However, I also fear that too many of us share the lack of hospitality that was shown in Bethlehem that night.

Hungry, alone, homeless and seeking refuge they found none. That any child, let alone God’s son, should be born in a manger tells us much. I suppose I long for a Christmas that sees the greatest gift given being that of our time and our love.

This Sunday is the first Sunday of Advent. This Sunday we will celebrate Hope. Hope is a star and it is my hope that each of us might be a beacon of light in a dark world. That as we move through Advent towards Christmas and the birth of Jesus we might give the gift of light and hope to the world.

  • Hope is a Star was first published in the Northumberland Today on November 26, 2015.