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OH NO IT'S NOT...

We’re all know those traditional pantomime responses that assist audiences to be involved in the performance before them as it unfolds on the stage: “He’s behind you”, “Boo”, “Hiss”, “Oh no he’s not”; “Oh yes she is”.

 

Our media and politicians have been encouraging their own to-and-fro call and response phrases this year. Headlines in our papers and on social media, as far back as August, were proclaiming “Christmas is cancelled”, while the politicians retorted that that could never happen. In the words of the Transport Secretary Grant Shapps to Times Radio on 15th October: “Christmas will go ahead. We’ll be able to see our friends and families. There will be food, there will be gifts.”

 

It’s a strange old world. In 2020 we were being told Christmas would be cancelled because we wouldn’t be able to spend it with loved ones as usual; this year we’re being told Christmas is at risk of cancellation because essentials like turkey, Barbie dolls/accessories and Paw Patrol might be unavailable.

 

It makes me want to ask – what is Christmas all about? What are the essentials and what are the add-ons? Why is it so important to share with family and friends, to eat traditional food and to replenish one’s stock of gadgets, toys and novelty slippers?

 

Love is the answer. We want to be with family because we love them. We buy or make gifts to bring happiness to our loved ones. We eat together because that is one of the best ways known to humankind to celebrate and share life’s good things. We long for Christmas to be a joy-filled experience.

 

The love that means most, however, is that of being together – that is why it was so hard last year when people couldn’t gather as usual because of the co-vid restrictions.

 

Christmas can be hard for those who live alone. I remember my final year as an assistant curate some twenty years ago; weeping alone in an empty church building on Christmas morning after services were over and everyone else had gone home to family, friends and Christmas dinners is a poignant memory. What awaited me was an empty house.

 

I was wrong – my house wasn’t empty, for I had forgotten the heart of that Christmas message I’d been preaching that morning, that we are never truly alone, for God is with us. That Christ-child in the manger in church had come home with me in my heart.

 

God’s love is transforming, but never forced upon us. God’s arrival in our world in human form was about showing everyone it was in reach of us all, young and old, poor and rich, broken-hearted and joyful, alone or surrounded by those whom we love.

 

Christmas isn’t just for those with lots of family and friends with whom to celebrate, and nor is God. Christmas isn’t only for those with money to spend on full tables and generous present. God isn’t either.

 

Christmas and its message of love is for every person who has ever arrived in this world as a new-born baby. No one is excluded, for in taking the form of a human being, God identifies with us all.

 

Cancel culture has become a thing in 2021 as people are ostracised, shamed or ridiculed for holding certain views; God doesn’t do cancel-culture. All of us are valued, loved and treasured.

 

Perhaps next time we hear or read that Christmas is cancelled, we will join together in heart and mind to declare “Oh no, it’s not”. For love cannot be cancelled, and the heart of Christmas is love.

 

May God bless you all.

 

Best wishes

Sarah

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