Last Saturday Julie and I went to an Advent Carol Service in Cambridge, a time to visit again the place where I had become a Christian and where the course of my life changed forever. The service was an amazing mix of beautiful singing (by the college choir, not me!) and great tradition: there were two songs in Latin! The introduction was clear: Advent is a time of preparation for Christmas. Not just the preparation of ordering the turkey and buying the presents (important though those things may be), but a time of a watching and waiting as we anticipate the celebration of Christ’s first coming and think about when He will return again. The service started with a prayer for us to prepare ourselves for the nativity celebration and also for the time when He comes to judge the hearts of us all. It then said ‘but first’…set priorities, pray for those for whom Christmas is a difficult time, whether by reason of health, loss or finance.
It is so easy to get caught up in the ‘busy-ness’, but my overwhelming wish is for us all to rejoice in the amazing truth that this Advent lays before us: to celebrate the most incredible event of all time, the one who had been in existence before time began, being born as a baby, identifying with mankind in every way. About the all-powerful creator willingly stepping outside of the realm of power and purity into a deeply flawed creation. About our God doing this because he LOVES us.
John’s gospel starts with the “The Word was God” and tells us, “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” Everything we are and believe as Christians depends upon this: that Jesus Christ is fully God and fully human. Christmas as a Christian festival may not be taught in the Bible, but the meaning it has is its very foundation. And the goal of the Bible and the goal of God in becoming human can be summed up in John 20:31, “These things are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name.”
The essence of Christmas is not the lights, presents and traditions, it is about recognising the most incredible event of all time and for us to show how amazing this event is, and to demonstrate the enormity of what it means to us.