Forgive us our Christmases, as we forgive those who Christmas against us.

25 Dec

Here is my Reflection, from today’s Christmas Day Service:

Someone once made a clever little re-phrasing of the Lord’s prayer, from ‘Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us’, to ‘Forgive us our Christmases, as we forgive those who Christmas against us.’

It bears some thinking about. What, indeed, have we done with and to Christmas?

Did you know that for some time our Puritan forbears, including the great Oliver Cromwell, refused to have anything to do with Christmas. They saw it as a pagan influence on the church, and there was a famous woman who was part of the Broadmead Baptist Church in Bristol who was arrested for her picketing the cathedral Christmas services.

It seems to me that our culture engages in this frantic busyness we call Christmas—which has been going on for the last 5 or 6 weeks at least—because we are searching for something that we think should have a meaning, and if we only try hard enough, spend enough, eat and drink enough, the meaning might just come.

We do all this to try to make something of it: but actually we are invited into it, and if we will stop all this trying, it just might make something of us. The meaning just might find us.

The whole meaning of the Christmas story is not that we find God, but that God comes to us. If we have eyes to see, God is with us. Immanuel.

In this church we have spent most of this year trying to see this: God is with us, and therefore we are with God. The challenge is to learn to see, as the shepherds in our reading were given to see: to see, and believe, what God is doing before our very eyes.

Forgive us our Christmases: Well, I am never so much interested in what is wrong, as in what is right; In what we can do positively to make things better.

Today I invite you into a time of reflection about the Christmas story, and to consider several of the figures in it. We will allow ourselves a little bit of time to think quietly about this story, and our Christmases.

 

We will do this in the form of a responsive reading and prayer. After the prayer there will be a time of silence, and then we will sing together our concluding hymn, O Come all you faithful.

Responsive Prayer:     ‘Christmastide profiles’

As Christmas comes round year by year, Lord, we are tempted to say, ‘We have heard all this many times before; we know this story off by heart.’

Forgive us, Lord, and remind us of the difference between knowing about it, knowing it, and letting it speak to us again and again.

Help us to see ourselves and our own attitudes lived out by people in the Christmas story:

The inn-keeper: who couldn’t find room for you in his inn.

Lord, help us to cease from cluttering our lives with countless things—things that don’t really matter; things that crowd you and others out.

Herod: hostile, jealous, and hating; because he was afraid of who he was and of what your coming might do to him.

Lord, help us to see the destructiveness of our jealousies, and help us replace our fears with hope and our hates with forgiveness.

The shepherds: who were scorned by others as unskilled labourers, but heard the music of your coming even while they worked.

 Lord, deliver us from the pride that thinks some tasks too menial, and from prejudices that blind us to your glory.

The wise men from the east: who journeyed far to find you.

Teach us again, eternal God, that those who really seek will find, and never let us rest until we have been found by you.

(Adapted from Terry Falla (ed.) Be our freedom, Lord,  272)

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