I remember one Christmas when, as a child, I had lost some teeth; I was “gappy!” and biting some foods was difficult. All I wanted Christmas was my two front teeth to come through! That might sound a bit flippant, but as a child it was important to me. So I wonder what is important to you this Christmas. What would be top of your Christmas gift list? It might be an end to a difficult time you have experienced. You might ask for restoration of your health or of a broken relationship. It might be sufficient money to clear your debts. Or the healing of pain due to the loss of a loved one. Christmas brings many painful experiences to the forefront of our minds, especially for those who struggle to watch others happy and enjoying themselves, or are isolated and lonely.
In thinking about the Christmas story, I was reflecting on the tough time that Mary and Joseph had. It wasn’t, as we often like to imagine, an easy time for them. Mary was heavily pregnant and she and Joseph had to travel for days to fulfil a requirement of the Roman governor. The baby she was carrying had been conceived in unusual circumstances and she was going to Joseph’s family’s home town. Joseph had taken on a pregnant Mary, encouraged to do that by a God-given dream, knowing that the baby wasn’t his. When they get to his home town, possibly late, there isn’t room in the family accommodation and they end up in the place where the animals are usually kept. Jesus is born into a working-class family, in an un-hygienic place, a long way from home (for Mary). And then there are the visitors – shepherds with tales of strange happenings on the fields around Bethlehem. And the message of the Angel – not to be afraid! “For I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all people. Today in the town of David a Saviour has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord.” So much for Mary to take in, and ponder. I wonder what you or I would have made of all this if we had been around at the time?
But the great company of angels who had appeared to the shepherds, also had an important message for them and for us: Jesus’ birth was celebrated with the words: “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favour rests”. Christmas is God’s gift of love to us all. Whatever we would like for Christmas, the gift of his love and peace, wrapped up in the birth of Jesus the Saviour, is a wonderful gift to unwrap. God’s love and peace can help us get through even the toughest of times, including Christmas, if we unwrap the gift that is offered to us in Jesus.