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Enjoy Christmas, but remember its real meaning

Published 11/12/2015

Christmas is sometimes greeted with the same enthusiasm as the arrival of a difficult relative. A solicitous neighbour was well ahead of the game in asking me in mid-November if I were ready for Christmas. Her voice rang with compassion rather than delight, as if I were getting ready for the builders or impending surgery.

This is a time when the secular and the sacred rub shoulders. The secular centrepiece is the office party, where a year of repressed lust is discharged among hapless colleagues.

Children will have to face a barrage of questions about what they got. There is a story about a child who announced "I hope I get lots of toys from Santa Claus", and was reminded that, at Christmas, he should think more of giving than of getting. He replied: "Sorry, I hope Santa Claus gives me lots of toys."

What wins through for many people is the opportunity to think beyond the daily round to the mysterious simplicity of the story of the birth of a child bringing hope to the world. It is not just a religious story, but one that appeals to the hearts of all of us.

Last year I attended a midnight service. At the entrance to the church was a homeless gentleman who sat on the pavement surrounded by an array of tinsel, Christmas tree lights and candles.

It was discovered after the service that the usual Christmas Eve collection was unusually low; most of the intended offerings had been placed in the gentleman's hat - not just pennies from Heaven, but pounds.

This formed the basis of the celebrant's sermon on Christmas Day on the real meaning of Christmas.

Happy Christmas to all.


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