“Ding dong merrily on high, the Christmas bells are ringing,” sing the carol singers. The tree is up and your are enjoying a daily chocolate treat from the advent calendar. The shops are loaded with Christmas goodies but you are still stuck about what to buy that person in your family who has everything. Then you are practicing producing a genuine smile for when you receive that gift from your ‘auntie’ that you know is going to move on immediately to the charity shop.
What is going to stop it becoming another Christmas when you stack your children’s and grandchildren’s bedrooms with more toys than they could ever play with? What is doing to stop you eating too much and drinking too much (lemonade of course) and starting the New Year with a diet? Before you know what happens it will all be over and you’ll only have the January credit card statement to look forward to unless you are tempted by a new year binge in the sales, in which case you can have to brace yourself for the following month aswell!
Despite its tendency to encourage excess, we all love Christmas! At its best its about celebrating Jesus and telling others about how he has transformed our lives. It’s about enjoying our families and friends in all their different shapes, sizes and styles. It’s about feasting and enjoying all the good things that God has given us.
So what could be different about Christmas 2016? The Gospel according to John explains that God is the ‘Word’ and that, ‘the Word became flesh and blood, and moved into the neighbourhood’ (John 1:14). This is a beautiful picture of the incarnation, that God became human in the person of Jesus Christ. His arrival in the world has changed history, it has split time in two – BC and AD – and started the largest and longest revolutionary movement ever known.
It is hard to imagine what the world would look like if God had not become human in the person of Jesus Christ and moved into the ‘neighbourhood’. Given that you are in Christ and Christ is in you, I’d like to ask what does your ‘neighbourhood’ look like with you, and what would your ‘neighbourhood’ look like without you?
Hopefully there is a significant difference. If not, or if you think the difference could be greater, then now is the time to do something about it. Your ‘neighbourhood’ could be; your street, the community around your local church, your workplace where you spend most of your waking week, the global village or all of the above.
What could be different about Christmas 2016 is that instead of waiting till the New Year to set resolutions, you could begin by asking these important questions about yourself now. Your life may be the first experience of Jesus that your ‘neighbourhood’ experiences – and hopefully it will be the first of many.