Christmas Eve is here and children across the world will be in a state of high excitement. Have they been good enough for Santa to call? Will they get what they’ve asked for? Mums and dads are probably ready to collapse in a heap with a glass of wine, vegetables are being prepared, visitors are arriving, festive films fill the TV screen.
I have been sitting by the fire peeling sprouts, listening to some beautiful music, trying to slow my life down for a day or two. I’ve been thinking about faces, the faces of children in particular and how some children’s faces change completely as they grow older and how some don’ t really change at all, they just grow into their looks.
There’s such an innocence about the face of a small child, an openness and honesty that can easily get lost as they grow up, as they learn to hide their feelings and wear a mask like so many of us do.
Christmas is a time when we can share the joy and wonder of the children. My daughters and I have watched many Christmas movies over recent weeks. There’s the hype about Santa, the disbelieving grown ups who lose the Christmas spirit and the children who manage to show them what they’ve lost. In a film I watched earlier Santa’s helper said “Don’t you know that children carry the spirit of Christmas in their hearts?”
I thought about that and asked myself what is the spirit of Christmas? Through a child’s eyes its about gifts, excitement, anticipation, joy. Or maybe for some its about disappointment, torn loyalties, doubt and sadness.
The clue about the real Spirit of Christmas is in the word. The Word that became flesh and dwelt among us. Christ Himself coming as a helpless baby to live amongst His people. The baby in the manger was eagerly awaited. Like any expectant mother Mary would have had hopes and dreams for her child.
We sometimes treat God like a benign Santa Claus, there to give us what we want, throwing a tantrum when He doesn’t deliver. But God showed up in person, as my friend Elaine says, God with skin on. When Mary looked into the innocent face of her sleeping infant she was looking into the face of God.
Jesus came to show us what God is really like, came to share our existence, every feeling and emotion we know, He knows too. Every gut wrenching moment of heartache and grief we feel , He feels too.
The real Spirit of Christmas is about love, redemption, forgiveness, hope in this dark world. Jesus was born at night, at the darkest time. He came as a light that shines in the darkness, a light that can never be put out, no matter how hard anyone tries.
So we need to come with the excitement of children, the eager anticipation of change, the joy of knowing that there is hope for us, forgiveness if we ask for it. We just need to come in to the stable. amid the muck and the smell of animals, to look at the baby lying there, that innocent little face, the face of God.
This has been a difficult year for lots of my family and friends. Ill health and grief have taken their toll. This Christmas will be hard for those who face it alone or without someone they loved very much. To them all I offer my love and prayers and remember them all at this difficult time.
As Christmas Day draws close, take time to remember what it is really all about, a tiny child who grew to be a man. A man who opened His arms and His heart to the lost, the lonely and the frightened. A man who stretched out those arms on a cross for all of us.
A man who made it possible for us to see what God is like. Take the journey that shepherds and wise men took. That journey starts with a single step, a step to a stable to see a real Christmas miracle.
What can I give Him, poor as I am?
If I were a shepherd, I would bring a lamb;
If I were a Wise Man, I would do my part;
Yet what I can I give Him: give my heart.