When I was giving some thought to what I might put in this article, I remembered something that occurred when I was at college studying for ordination to the priesthood.
A fellow student, a friend of mine, was set an exercise. He was to imagine that he was to be interviewed on local radio and in a very few words had to explain what we as Christians believe about Christmas.
This was not easy because – as I am sure any priest will tell you – it is far harder to write a short sermon than a long one.
It is difficult to feel you can do full justice to your subject in only a few words.
So, stuck for ideas, my friend came to me for help. I said to him, why not put it like this: “Christians believe that, at Christmas, God came to live with us so that we can go to live with Him.”
I should like to be able to tell you that this was an original thought of my own, but it was something I remembered my old parish priest having said years before.
I had never forgotten it because I think that, even then, I was able to appreciate that it is a succinct and beautiful way of explaining what Christians believe happened at Christmas.
This then is our Christian belief and what we celebrate at Christmas – that God in Jesus Christ became a member of our human race so that, in time, we could go and live with Him forever in Heaven.
Put another way: God, the one by whom all things were made, became a creature Himself and was even ready to die so that we might live forever.
This is truly extraordinary and wonderful and something that surely no human being could ever have dreamed up.
It says something to us about the depth of God’s love for us, but in truth our human language fails in any attempt to fully explain it. St Paul, when he was writing to some of the first Christians, put it this way: “The foolishness of God is wiser than men.”
It is the birth of Jesus Christ that Christmas celebrates.
Whatever else we do at Christmas – give presents, have plenty to eat, celebrate with family and friends – all this is because God in Jesus Christ became one of us.
Those of us who are Christians, who have been baptised or “christened” as we sometimes call it, ought never to allow these other things to eclipse the fundamental and authentic cause of our celebrations.
If Christmas is for you no longer a time full of family and friends, think about the true meaning of Christmas and what it is really celebrating, and take some comfort from this.
I wish you a very happy and blessed Christmas.
Littlehampton Churches Together – details of Christmas services in 2017
• All Saints, Church of England, Wick Street – Christmas Eve: 9.30am, All Saints Morning Service; 11.30am, Lyminster Morning Service; 3.30pm and 5pm, Crib Services; 11.30pm, Midnight Communion. Christmas Day: 9.30am, Christmas Celebration Service.
• Arun Community Church, Littlehampton Academy, Fitzalan Road – Christmas Day: 10.30am, Christmas Day Service.
• Baptist Church, Fitzalan Road – Christmas Eve: 10am, Morning Worship. Christmas Day: 10am, Family Celebration.
• Parkside Evangelical Church, St Flora’s Road – Christmas Eve: 10.30am, Carol Service; 6.30pm, Carol Service. Christmas Day: 10.30am, Christmas Day Service.
• St Catherine’s, Roman Catholic, Beach Road – Christmas Eve: 11am, 4th Sunday of Advent Mass; 5.30pm, Family Vigil Mass of Christmas; 11pm, Night Mass of Christmas. Christmas Day: 11am, Christmas Morning Mass.
• St James, Church of England, East Ham Road – Christmas Day: 10am, Parish Mass.
• St Joseph’s Convent, Roman Catholic, East Street – Christmas Eve: 10.30am, 4th Sunday of Advent Mass; 8.30pm, Carols; 9pm, Night Mass of Christmas. Christmas Day: 10.30am, Christmas Morning Mass.
• St Mary’s, Church of England, Church Street – Christmas Eve: 8am, Eucharist; 10am, Parish Eucharist; 5pm, Crib Service; 11.30pm, Midnight Mass of Christmas. Christmas Day: 8am, Eucharist; 10am, Parish Eucharist.
• Society of Friends, Quakers, Church Street – December 24: 10.30am, Meeting for Worship. December 25: 9am, Short Meeting for Worship.
• Littlehampton United Church, Methodist & URC, High Street – Christmas Eve: 10.30am, Morning worship with Christingles; 11.30pm, Christmas Night Communion. Christmas Day: 10am, Family Christmas Celebration