All in all I’m feeling reasonably prepared for the big day.
Of course the big day will come and go and some time about three o’clock on Boxing Day we will wonder what all of the fuss was about.
My Christmas day is a little different to most people. I’ll rise early and head for chapel number one complete a service there and then head for chapel number two, complete my second service, break for a mince pie, collect my boys from their mums and then head to Brighton to continue the festivities with aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews, grandparents et al.
While I’ll sing my fair share of Carols, read the obligatory story of the nativity and generally attend to my fair share of religious activity I will also stand a long way from the very first Christmas.
When modern citizens talk of being prepared we list the things we’ve done or the things we’ve bought. Preparation is a marker of our strength and resources. When holy scripture records the story of Mary and Joseph I am struck by their complete lack of preparation, at least in modern terms. Not only had Joseph failed to book ahead but Mary had seemingly equally failed in her selection of modest unassuming names. Yet the mystery which captivates us is that in the life of a fourteen year old girl and a desperately confused boyfriend God’s strength is made perfect in their weakness.
When we read the nativity story especially in Luke’s gospel Mary and Joseph appear more prepared than any of us. Joseph has both the heart to trust in what he can not possibly understand and the faith to act on this trust I admire Joseph he is always my ‘imaginary dinner party guest’. How many of us would have done the same? How many of us would have walked away from what everyone expected us to do and simply have done what God was calling us to do.
Mary’s preparation carries a rare and beautiful form. Towards the end of Luke’s opening chapter he describes how Mary bursts into song, she hears the good news of God and she praises God. It is this deep worship of God which enables her to deliver the saviour of the world. I wonder for how many of our lives are so fundamentally determined by our worship of God and for how many of us our worship has become a religious act for a religious moment? Mary invites all of us into a whole new way of being in the world, before God and with others.
My prayer for each of us this Christmas is that amongst the endless lists, the formidable pile of cards yet to be written and the fridge bursting with goodness we will find time to be ‘lost in wonder love and praise’, to find ourselves captivated not by our material desires but by the incredible truth that God chose to become one of us, to learn to walk not in the assurance of what we have or are but in the steadfast relentless promise of God’s love.
Where ever you spend it, who ever you spend it with, have a truly wonderful Christmas.