The first Christmas morning that little Linda was able to read she was allowed to hand out the family gifts from under the Christmas tree. According to their family custom, the person who gave out the presents could open the first parcel. After all the gifts were distributed, with loving care, Linda kept looking and looking around the tree. Linda's father asked, "What are you looking for, dear?" Linda replied, "I thought Christmas was Jesus' birthday and I was wondering where his present is. It looks as though everyone has forgotten him."
It's a good point - who would hold a birthday party and then forget to invite the person whose birthday it is?! It is easy, in all the excitement of Christmas, to forget why we are giving gifts, why the decorations are up and so on.
Unless carefully watched, the Christmas rush can spoil our celebration of Christmas. "I wrap, send, clean, cook and worry that no one is left out", said one lady. "I worry about whether the money will stretch far enough, whether the turkey will fit into the oven, and how best to place the chairs around the table." It has been said that once the Christmas season is over, many people find that they are ninety days ahead with their calorie intake, and ninety days behind with their bills!
Our celebration of Christmas would lose much if we really managed to opt out of all the presents, entertaining and decorating. A tin of baked beans without friends or relatives would not be the same! But our celebration of Christmas also loses much if we fail to make time to relax and worship, to ponder with awe the real meaning of Christmas. Let us then have a really joyful celebration of our Lord and Saviour's birthday - and this can certainly include appreciating the good things, which God has given us to enjoy. But let us also make sure that all the rushing, cleaning, cooking and decorating does not destroy the peace, goodwill and joy which ought to characterise the festival of Christ's birth.
Thank you so much to everyone who supported the Operation Christmas Child Shoebox appeal. Fifty five completed shoeboxes have been sent from our Benefice to bring some Christmas joy to deprived children. Jesus said that what we do for other people we do for Him, and I am sure that these are the sort of Birthday presents He is delighted with! Let's see if we can do even better next year!
I look forward to seeing you at one or more of our Christmas services. Our Carol Services are on Sunday 18th December at 4.00pm at Denston and at 6.00pm at Stradishall and on Christmas Eve at 5.00pm at Stansfield. Then, later on Christmas Eve, we celebrate the Midnight Mass at St. Peter's, Ousden, beginning at 11.30pm. The Benefice Service on Christmas morning is at Stradishall at 10.00am.
May God grant to you and to all whom you love, a truly happy and blessed Christmas.
Some people have suggested that it would be helpful if it were possible to have a time when they could come to talk with me without having to phone first or make an appointment. Starting in the New Year, I will be available once a month in the Benefice Hall next to Wickhambrook church for anyone who would like to discuss anything with me - it might be a question about the faith; something to do with Church life; a personal or family difficulty - anything really, it's up to you. I thought we could trial this for, say, six months, usually on the last Saturday of the month from 10.00am until 11.00am, or later if needed. Please feel free to come along or let me know if you think some other arrangement would be better. The first "Open Door" will be on Saturday 28th January at 10.00am at the Benefice Hall.
With every blessing.
Rev'd Stephen Abbott