I just wrote the following for my December/January church newsletter …
Its mid-November and Im writing something to cover all the way through January. Having just seen the end of Debbies miserable ear infection Im not quite thinking of Christmas yet.
But others are, and have been planning for months. The shops have been working out their campaigns, the record companies have been recording wretched Christmas singles, et cetera. And blow me down if Debbie hasnt announced that she has bought all her presents.
Me, well, Ive ordered Rebekahs main present and bought her a stocking-filler; Ive bought Marks main present and I have a couple of small things so far for my lovely wife. But the rest of it I havent a clue.
I know Im far from unique: Christmas shoppers seem to be divided between those who start buying in the January sales and those who rush around frantically on Christmas Eve.
Yet I believe that the Christmas faith is one that calls us to look forward in a far greater and deeper way. Christmas is not only a time to cast our minds back two thousand years to the miracle of God taking on human flesh in obscurity and poverty, revolutionary as that is.
Let me put it like this: I dont suppose for one moment that when Slade wrote Merry Christmas Everybody they had theology in mind, but the line, Look to the future now, its only just begun is exactly what the Christmas faith is all about. The coming of Christ has changed everything and the future has begun, the future which is Gods kingdom.
Thats why we begin Advent four Sundays before Christmas with the theme of the Advent Hope. We are not only looking back to the incarnation of Christ, we are looking forward to his coming to bring the fulness of Gods kingdom.
In the meantime we live in the tension between the now that is full of pain and sin and the future which has begun with Gods forgiveness, healing and justice. Our challenge is to live the Advent Hope, to live under the joyful reign of Gods Kingdom in the midst of the worst this world offers.
To do that is to live the Christmas faith.