BBC Radio Leicester Thought for the Day
© John Denney 24 December 2003
Is it me, or has Christmas arrived with a rush this year? I’ve only just got over Guy Fawkes. Anyway, apart from picking up the turkey from the butcher’s, getting the veg. ready and making breadcrumbs for the Bread Sauce, we’re all ready for the Big Day. Even my presents are wrapped up – in several unnecessary acres of wrapping paper and many metres of sticky tape. How do women wrap odd-shaped things so exquisitely with just a piece of paper the size of a postage stamp and a piece of ribbon?
Around now, you always get some killjoy complaining in the papers or in a phone-in, that 25th December was hijacked by the Christians and that Jesus wasn’t actually born on that day. OK. We admit it. It’s true. There was a big controversy in the church about 1700 years ago. Some said we ought to celebrate Jesus’ birth. After all, it was the single most important event in history. Others said we shouldn’t celebrate His birthday, because every day was a day for celebration, and in any case, there were no records of which day He was actually born. In the end, everyone agreed that the darkest midwinter days of the year in Christendom needed brightening up. So they took over the old pagan winter festivals, and added something in that the pagans didn’t have. You remember that the wise men gave gifts of gold and frankincense and myrrh to the infant Jesus. Christians started to give each other small Christmas presents, following the example of the wise men.
Christmas is the single most important event in history because it celebrates the day when Jesus stepped out of the glory of heaven and was born as a human baby. He did this to show us what God is like, and to offer us an escape route from the prison of our wrong attitudes and wrong actions. No wonder that the angel announced Jesus’ birth to some shepherds with the remark, “I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.” Great Joy. Listen for the Joy in the carols we’re hearing and singing. Look for the Joy on the faces of little children. And maybe experience the Joy of joining with others to worship Christ, the new-born King, at a church near you today and tomorrow. Let no one take that Joy from you. Have a happy and blessed Christmas.