East Trent Churches
I’m a great fan of Radio 4, and I always know that Christmas is getting near when there’s a discussion on Woman’s Hour about how to cope with all the bedding when you’re expecting guests to stay.
At this time of year, lots of us spend time thinking about our homes, from the number of clean sheets we need, to how to decorate the tree to making sure our tables look their best ready to be filled up with delicious food.
We might be anxious about where we will spend Christmas or who will be coming home to us. It seems sad to think of anyone being alone or far from home and yet at the heart of the Christian story is a young pregnant woman, forced by a brutal regime to leave her home and family and travel to an overcrowded town which didn’t have the resources to provide for its sudden, enforced growth in population. That woman was given shelter in a stable and that’s where she gave birth to her son, with no mother, sister, aunt or lifelong friend to help her and celebrate with her.
Recently I read a beautiful quote which has got me thinking. It’s by GK Chesterton and it goes like this: Christmas is built upon a beautiful and intentional paradox, that the birth of the homeless should be celebrated in every home.
Maybe that story of Mary giving birth to Jesus resonates with us and we want to make the most of our homes and families. Maybe it makes us think of the plight of many refugees today, so we want to enjoy familiar comfort and companionship. Maybe at the end of a year when we’ve been shocked by terrorist attacks, we want to be especially close to those we love.
Maybe the birth of Jesus speaks to a deep longing in our hearts to be at home and sounds an age old echo that God has created us for himself and our hearts are restless till we find our rest in him (St Augustine). In the birth of Jesus, instead of people striving to get to God, God has come to us and made his home with us; he’s closed the gap between heaven and earth and taken away any obstacles that can come between us.
How can we prepare to be at home in and with God?
It might help to sing or read this verse from the carol O Little Town of Bethlehem as a prayer:
O holy child of Bethlehem,
Descend to us, we pray;
Cast out our sin and enter in:
Be born in us today.
We hear the Christmas angels
The great glad tidings tell:
O come to us, abide with us,
Our Lord Emmanuel.
I hope you have a very happy Christmas and New Year and I hope you are blessed by knowing that God is with us.