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Why this year feels a lot more like Christmas than Xmas

Rev Steve Stockman


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'One is a Santa Claus-centred Christmas that is all about fun, family decorations and eating. There is a lot of spending and sharing of gifts and recycled wrapping paper. I call this Xmas.'

'One is a Santa Claus-centred Christmas that is all about fun, family decorations and eating. There is a lot of spending and sharing of gifts and recycled wrapping paper. I call this Xmas.'

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'One is a Santa Claus-centred Christmas that is all about fun, family decorations and eating. There is a lot of spending and sharing of gifts and recycled wrapping paper. I call this Xmas.'

There has been much concern about whether Covid-19 would ruin all our Christmases. Imagine: the shops shut, no staff dinner, no trips to Santa's grotto, family visits banned and no carol services.

Whatever ways Stormont decides to keep us safe, even with a five-day triple family bubble, this Christmas is going to be different. I am going to audaciously suggest that all of this could make it the best Christmas ever.

Usually, around the end of November, I look ahead to Christmas and suggest that there are two festivals.

One is a Santa Claus-centred Christmas that is all about fun, family decorations and eating. There is a lot of spending and sharing of gifts and recycled wrapping paper. I call this Xmas.

Then there is the other festival. This one is about remembering, re-enacting and reflecting on the most amazing story. It is the story of a God who humbled Himself to be born as a baby. What an idea.

God visiting Earth and becoming one of us, dependent on a teenage girl and being carted off as a refugee. This baby has names - Emmanuel, meaning "God with us", and Jesus, meaning "God saves". I call this Christmas.

I love both festivals. I so enjoy getting the family up early on Christmas morning. I love opening presents.

I love the Christmas dinner, particularly my wife's family's tradition of spiced beef.

I love the snooze in the afternoon and the leftovers and sweets. It's all warm and lovely.

I also love Fitzroy's Christmas morning service. There is nothing like O Come All Ye Faithful on Christmas morning, especially if Richard Blake happens to be home to play his trumpet, to give central importance to that baby laid in the straw.

I love having the children all up around our crib and me lifting the baby out and explaining who He is and what His birth means. It is powerfully spiritual.

Now, for years, I have heard people tell me that they find it a shame that sometimes the Xmas season squeezes out the Christmas season.

Maybe that is where this year can be different.

Perhaps we have a rare opportunity.

Perhaps these restrictive circumstances give us a chance in a lifetime to concentrate on the spiritual aspect.

What about a Christmas retreat. A year when we do what the story of the baby means.

We give up our rights and comforts and entitlements for the good of those around us.

As Jesus sacrificed Himself to kill the virus of human sin, we will do the same to beat the virus that has killed so many and threatens to kill more.

Could we, for one year, underplay the Xmas part to give the Christmas part our best intentions and concentration?

We might not be able to gather as normal, but you will find services and other resources online to get the full impact of this world-changing event.

We might find that, at the end of such an awful year, we find something... like angels singing, a star shining, or God lying in straw, offering peace, love and hope for all human kind. Maybe, as we try to forget that number 2020, we end up celebrating it.

Maybe this year could give us the 2020 vision we have always longed for, but found blurred with all the other stuff.

Rev Steve Stockman is minister of Fitzroy Presbyterian Church, Belfast

Apt Bible readings

Some Scripture suggestions for the week ahead:

Monday: Luke 1:26-38

Tuesday: Matthew 1:18-23

Wednesday: Luke 1:39-45

Thursday: Luke 1:46-55

Friday: Luke 2:1-7

Belfast Telegraph


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