In many households, expectations around Christmas are high. Not in mine.
‘When will Dad be ill?’ is a fairly frequent comment from the children, who are used to the fact that by Christmas Day vicars get to the point where they run out of resistance to any disease going. Or, ‘So what’s going to be the drama this year?’
It always seems that there is some sort of drama.
There was the year of the dog. Bramble and I went for a run in the local woods at 6.30 p.m. on Christmas Eve: she smelt something interesting, disappeared and did not come back. The atmosphere in the house during the day was one of deep depression. Christmas was ruined. Thirteen long hours later I was standing on an open-top bus in front of five thousand people (one of Canterbury’s great Christmas gatherings); my phone buzzed and – very rudely, but I promise unusually – I answered. Bramble had been found; Christmas was saved and I, and the head of the cathedral, jumped up and down for joy.
There was the year of pneumonia. Feverish coughing and feeling generally awful, I had to cancel preaching in Canterbury Cathedral on Christmas Day. Unusually, the diagnosis of pneumonia was a huge relief – 36 hours before I had been visiting an Ebola clinic in Sierra Leone. I remember looking up at a fairly surprised GP and a rather concerned family. But, the precautions that wonderful clinic took meant I was much luckier than those I had visited. I quickly recovered.
It is quite easy to assume that Christmas is to be survived, rather than enjoyed. But I am not in the least cynical, because every year there is something, as I look back over the previous twelve months, which speaks to me of the miracle of God coming to be with us.
Let’s be clear. Christmas is not really about babies and mangers. Jesus is Emmanuel – God with us. God came to live among us; to be born and live and have His flesh crucified by others, all so He could be with us.
There is nothing human God does not understand or, in Jesus, does not witness. He flipped our understanding of power on its head, arriving as a newborn Baby with no protection, no army and none of the gaudy trappings of power.
As is common to all our lives, this year has had great highs and lows. As my wife Caroline and I continue our travels across the Anglican Communion, we spend time with Christians in utterly different circumstances to our own; often, circumstances of war and profound hardship. My hope always, in visiting others, is to offer companionship and witness; to show that, no matter the darkness that has descended, they are not forgotten.
A high point of my year was, of course, the Royal Wedding; an extraordinary day which felt both personal and global. Bishop Michael Curry proclaimed the glad tidings of the revolutionary power of the love of God. His words ringing out in the Chapel, as we celebrated God’s love in such spectacular fashion, are a memory I will treasure.
In places of suffering, and places of wealth and privilege, Jesus is present to us all; present as the One who loves us until death and beyond. As I celebrate Christmas this year, listen to the readings and carols, I will pray to receive and be a witness to the revolution of love that arrived as God becoming a vulnerable Baby.
Excerpted by permission from In This Light: Thoughts for Christmas by The Most Reverend Justin Welby Archbishop of Canterbury, copyright Justin Welby.
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Is there a drama every year in your household at Christmastime? If so, you’re in good company! Let’s remember that no matter what, Jesus is present to us all. Present today and every day. Rejoice! Come share your thoughts with us on our blog. We would love to hear from you! ~ Devotionals Daily