So in recent days we’ve had calls from Lorraine Kelly to cancel it, Giles Brandreth thinks we should postpone it, and pressure is mounting on Boris Johnson to save it… but whether it is put back or put off completely – one thing is sure… this will be a Christmas like no other.

When we talk about the Government “saving” Christmas, I must admit it does sound like the plot to one of those movies you stumble across in a bargain bin this time of year… a kind of unofficial and unauthorized sequel to a Grinch movie or something.

What do we mean by: “saving Christmas”?

Well, I guess it depends a little bit on what we mean by “Christmas”…

I guess what people probably mean the kind of big social events, parties, community festivals, shopping trips and large family get togethers that usual involve lots of singing, lots of hugging, lots of eating and drinking, and crucially – lots and lots of people.

I do understand that we are tired of the constant (yet ever changing) regulations – we are undeniably tired of social distancing, or trying to remember whether the rule of six or the bubble of two is in play… and the more frustrated our emotions get, the less we are inclined to listen to reason and more tempted we are to kick off the restrictions and party like it’s not 2020 anymore…

But amidst all the talk of whether sentiment or science will land us on Santa’s naughty list, I find myself wondering a different question… I’m aware this may cast me in the Scrooge role for some, but dare I ask the question : “Would a quieter and calmer celebration of Christmas really be such a terrible thing?” 

And I’m not talking here about whether people should be allowed to visit their relatives in care homes, or whether students should be allowed back from University – those things are undeniably difficult dilemmas for all of us to work through as best we can… But might a stripped back Christmas season provide more space for all of us to be recharged and renewed – and possibly even reflect in a deeper way about what “Christmas” really is all about anyway?

 

As hard as it is, it’s not like Christmas hasn’t been hit with challenges before – World Wars and recessions to name but a few, but even the first Christmas was deeply affected by political agendas. The whole reason Mary and Joseph take the long and unfriendly trek from Nazareth to Bethlehem (whilst heavily pregnant!) was due to a census taking place for taxation purposes! (Luke 2.1-3)

After that, Bethlehem’s doors were firmly shut to this unconventional, unmarried couple. (Luke 2.7) And then the Magi’s international search for the one born to be “the King of the Jews” throws Herod into a paranoid political frenzy of genocidal proportions. (Matthew 2.16)

But nevertheless, into the mess of our broken world, Jesus comes as our “Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.” The one laying in the hay of the manger is one on whose shoulder the “government shall ever rest” (Isaiah 9.6) – a government whose increase and peace will know no end; no restrictions, no guidelines, no limits… (Isaiah 9.7)

In all the talk of what a Corona-virus Christmas might look like, and what may or may not be able to be “saved” – let’s not forget: there is only one Saviour at Christmas – and His name is Jesus. He does not need saving, not from a census, not from Herod, not from covid-19, not from anything… The momentum of the advancement of His peace is endless – and we’re now a part of that Kingdom, that celebration, that joy!

And if this year our traditional “Christmas” can’t happen in the way it normally might… might that actually be a gift? Stripping us of the usual stress and noise, providing us with space and time, opening to us a new opportunity to welcome His much-needed peace?

Peace that no holiday or party or present could ever provide?

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.

JOHN 14.27

He wasn’t talking about the kind of peace that comes from knowing there’s a holiday around the corner, or the kind of peace you can enjoy relaxing with friends, or even the kind of peace we will all feel when COVID-19 takes it’s place in the history books and not the headlines.

He’s talking about peace with God.

Peace that only comes through knowing that we are totally forgiven by God Himself, complete forgiveness won for us at the cross – that is why Jesus left His throne in heaven for a manger in Bethlehem,… there is one Saviour this Christmas, and we will never know peace, until we make our peace with Him. We will find it in His nail-pierced hands, or we will find it nowhere. But the good news is, He is waiting.

 

For details of what we are planning to do over Christmas, please see here.

For details of how you can book to come to watch our Sunday morning live-stream service in person, please see here.

 

This coming Sunday morning we have communion in the morning service, so please do be prepared for that with whatever you’d like to use at home; if you’re booked in to come to the live-stream in person, we will have some pre-filled sealed communion cups available should you wish to participate.

We’re also opening a virtual prayer wall for this weekend, for more details of how to write your prayers on the wall, please see here for more information.

 

Ps – you can listen to this blog, and others like it, together with all of our sermons here:

https://bit.ly/Bethel-Podcast 

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