At this time of year there is always a great sense of anticipation and of hope. As we make our plans for Christmas, we anticipate the variety of services which help us to celebrate the birth of Jesus: carol services, crib services and the uniquely special service of midnight Mass.
One of my favourite stories about a school nativity service (not in our school!) is of the little boy who wanted to play the part of Joseph. He was very disappointed to be given instead the part of the innkeeper, but he appeared to accept his teacher’s decision and got on with his part in the play. However, on the day of the performance, in front of a school hall packed with parents, the boy took his revenge. When Joseph and Mary asked him if there was any room in his inn, he abandoned the script, stood back so that the door to the inn was wide open and said, ‘yes there’s plenty of room; come on in!’
That might not be the way the familiar story goes but I think the little boy’s actions have some things to say to us at Christmas. We all are invited to ‘come in’ to greet the holy child, born into such very humble surroundings. All will be welcomed to the variety of different services which our churches offer at Christmas as we join together in celebrating the birth of Jesus, the One who comes to save us and bring us joy. There literally is ‘room for all’ because God welcomes each and every one of us. He does not want anyone to be turned away, because He loves each of us so much. God has shown the depth of that love in His unique gift to us; the gift of His Son, born as one of us, part of a loving human family; the One who was willing ultimately to give his life for us, so that we might share in his life, for ever.
We anticipate the celebration of Jesus’ birth, not only because it is a great excuse for a bit of a party, but also because his birth gives us hope. Hope for the future. Hope in the midst of much that seems to be changing all around us. Our Christmas celebrations lead into celebrations of the new year, with a heightened sense of anticipation for all that 2019 might bring. Many will be praying that the next year will be better than the last; others will be going into the New Year with a deep sense of anxiety and uncertainty. However as we approach 2019, we should remember the wonderful promise which Jesus made to us: ‘remember that I am with you always; yes, to the end of time’ (Matthew 28, verse 20). Jesus promises to be there with us in whatever it is that life brings; in the happy times and in the sadnesses; in the pain and also in the joy.
At Christmas, God welcomes us all to celebrate the birth of His Son, the One who brings hope to the world. God invites us to come in because He has made sure that there is room for us all.
I wish everyone a very HAPPY & HOLY CHRISTMAS and a peaceful New Year.