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A Christmas Thought

It is usual, when one talks of Christmas to find that your listener, has, within a very short time, gone off into a kind of day dream where, regardless of the things you might be saying, they are reliving the things that are important to them, not so much in the present, as from their childhood. Most of us, as children, were conditioned to Christmas in different ways, but however that may have been, one is on pretty safe ground in assuming that for the majority of today’s adults Christmas was secularised. The real meaning of Christmas was sacrificed to make way for the make-believe world of presents and Santa Claus. For me, that meant:

Mother would make a Christmas pudding and put sixpenny pieces in the mix.

If I was lucky, my Dad would take me to see Santa in his cave

Santa’s cave of course was in the middle of ‘toyland’ where a young lad could lose himself in myriad wonders that were most unlikely to appear in his Christmas Stocking.

The magic of Christmas Eve was simply the prelude for Christmas Day and obligatory over-eating and once a year treats.

And then alongside this were the traditions from other places, especially America.

There was a winking Santa Claus somehow affixed to the back of a huge transport truck, dedicated entirely to Coca Cola. Its message being that Santa and Coca Cola are forever bonded in some kind of life-giving reality. If you don’t have a coke, it’s not Christmas.

There was the inevitable glass of milk and a plate of biscuits for Santa to eat when he comes down the chimney.

But while this secularisation enjoys its festival day, there is another view of what Christmas is all about, and this view has nothing to do with the things I have already alluded to.

Last Christmas I was in the company of a bumper Church congregation who sang the carols of old and did so with great joy and energy. And who were the people is this bumper congregation? They were people from all walks of life, from the privileged to the marginalised. From the very young to the very old. Few among them would be trained to give profound words to the experience of faith. Few among them would have gone away without being deeply moved by their experience. They may not have had words to explain what they experienced, but experience something special they did. What is more, is that they came because they sensed that deep yearning from within. A deep spiritual longing that is only addressed when we reach out to things sacred, instead of things secular. Somehow, from within, we intuitively know that the glittering we might have treasured, have such a short life, and then they are gone. Things spiritual, change our lives forever.

It happened, that on this day I had also, for my Christmas preparation, read words other than those penned by secular prophets. In particular I was struck by words from a sermon delivered by Pope Leo I (10 November 461). He came to say,

"A star more brilliant than the other stars arouses wise men that dwell in the far East, and from the brightness of the wondrous light these men, not unskilled in observing such things, appreciate the importance of the sign: this doubtless being brought about in their hearts by Divine inspiration, in order that the mystery of so great a sight might not be hid from them, and, what was an unusual appearance to their eyes, might not be obscure to their minds. In a word they scrupulously set about their duty and provide themselves with such gifts that in worshipping the One they may at the same time show their belief in His threefold function: with gold they honour the Person of a King, with myrrh that of Man, with incense that of God."

A vision unobservable to a mind of pure logic. For the mind of faith however, there is promise and hope for a very special kind of being, freely available, not just to the person of Faith, but to all people. For me personally, it is the vision that lies at the heart of, not only who I am, but also who I may become. What is more, this is true for all people, not just some.

I have said before and I say again, ‘Many ships leave port under the flag of Christmas’. What we so often fail to notice is that they all carry different cargo.

The cargo I look for, is the cargo we call faith. Everything else I consider make-believe. In this modern world, it is not make-believe that I want to have governing my life. What I want to know more about is the faith that lies at the heart of what Christmas is actually all about. It is not about presents and Coke, it is about an eternal hope that really does make difference in our lives.

Let me conclude with a well-known poem by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day - Poem by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

I heard the bells on Christmas day
Their old familiar carols play,
And wild and sweet the words repeat
Of peace on earth, good will to men.

I thought how, as the day had come,
The belfries of all Christendom
Had rolled along th'unbroken song
Of peace on earth, good will to men.

And in despair I bowed my head:
'There is no peace on earth, ' I said
'For hate is strong, and mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good will to men.'

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
'God is not dead, nor doth He sleep;
The wrong shall fail, the right prevail, <br

Till, ringing, singing on its way,
The world revolved from night to day
A voice, a chime, a chant sublime,
Of peace on earth, good will to men.

Rev Ross

Published in the Messenger, December 2019

St Peter's Anglican Church

229 Ruahine Street,
Palmerston North
Email: stpeters@inspire.net.nz
Phone: (06) 358 5403

Office Hours: The Parish Office is operating remotely. Please contact using the details above.

St Peter's regrets that the Church and Hall are closed for bookings until further notice.

229 Ruahine Street,
Palmerston North
Email: stpeters@inspire.net.nz
Phone: (06) 358 5403

Office Hours:The Parish Office is operating remotely. Please contact using the phone numbers and/or email addresses above.

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