St Andrew, Glencairn

Glencairn Methodist Church

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Christmas 2009


Christmas - Cold and Dark?

My wife and I were in South Africa for a week at the beginning of December at the seaside village of Gordon's Bay, about 20 miles east of Cape Town. We were attending the Southern Hemisphere Conference on the Teaching and Learning of  Undergraduate Mathematics and Statistics, which was my academic subject of study. It was nice to escape from the damp and dark climate at home and to enjoy, not only a warm, sunny climate, but also meeting many old friends and colleagues.

During a coffee break towards the end of the week, I was sitting having coffee with Mike, a friend from Bristol. The sun was shining from a bright blue sky and was warm on our backs. (Have I already mentioned that it was lovely and sunny and warm?) Mike said to me, "Ken, it won't be long now until we are returning home to a cold, dark Christmas." "Mike", I said, "We may be leaving this lovely and sunny and warm place, but it will simply be to a cold, dark December that we shall be returning. Christmas will be warm and bright."

But reflecting of this conversation as I failed to sleep on the flight home, I thought to myself, "Perhaps Mike is right; perhaps Christmas is a cold, dark affair for many people." And I thought of those who may have been bereaved at Christmas time, and of the sadness they may be feeling. And I thought of the Credit Crunch, and of those who may have lost their jobs, and are worrying about how to simply survive let alone celebrate Christmas. And of those who are suffering from depression, and those who are lonely, and those whose homes were devastated by the floods, and..... Oh my goodness! So many people for whom Christmas will be far from warm and bright.

And then I had a private rant about how Christmas was now largely a secular, cultic event - an excuse for extravagant spending and gluttonous eating, and something to do with a baby and a tree and presents  and maybe a visit to church for carols. Does all this make Christmas warm and bright?

And then I thought of the first Christmas - Mary, heavily pregnant, and Joseph miles from home; no local maternity hospital so Jesus was born in the back yard of a pub. Not particularly warm and bright for them either.

But then God broke into this world! He "came and pitched his tent among us", as St John writes in his Gospel. And the angles in heaven could not contain their joy which they shared with the Judean shepherds, who came "to see this thing that had come to pass." And the Magi came to worship Him. And there was warmth and brightness. And Jesus, the Light of the World has been with us ever since, scattering the darkness from before us.

Dear Reader, if you are in a cold and dark place, then it is my prayer that in the Christmas story you may catch a glimpse of something  warm and bright. Or if Christmas for you a just something about a baby and a tree and presents and maybe carols, then please give some thought to the Incarnation; perhaps you will see the Light of the world. And if you are already caught up in the warmth and brightness of Christmas, then spare a thought for all those who find it cold and dark, and pray that the Light may break though into their lives.

May the joy of the angels, the eagerness of the shepherds, the perseverance of the wise men, the obedience of Joseph and Mary, and the peace of the Christ-child, be yours this Christmas.


21 December 2009


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