| Dec 27, 2007

Christmas Edition - December 20, 2007

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RienaChristmas Edition - December 20, 2007 Away in a manger By Rev. Nancy MacLeod, Anglican Parish of Parham - Sharbot LakeThinking of the celebration of Christmas brings to mind many images, whether we are people who worship in a Christian community or not. Stores are filled with decorations and displays that tempt us to shop ‘til we drop; concerts and plays offer entertainment; exciting foods are displayed in grocery flyers; workplaces, friends and families gather for fun and fellowship; children bounce with anticipation about what Santa will bring. Despite the fact that this is supposedly meant to bring us happiness, for many it becomes a source of stress instead.

While this so-called Christmas celebration is going on, in the Anglican tradition we are joining with many Christians keeping the season of Advent, which began four Sundays before Christmas. For us, this is a time to prepare - not just for the big Christmas dinner and all that involves, but to properly celebrate the memorial of the birth of our Lord. Although it can be difficult to do with all that’s going on around us, we hope to make it a time of peace, rather than increased stress. It should be a time for renewing our commitment to being people who live in a different way because Jesus the Christ was born - who live to share His love with His world.

The actual Christmas season begins for us the evening of December 24th. For many people, even those who don’t regularly attend worship, the Christmas Eve Church service is a welcome and important time to step away from that holiday bustle and find a different joy in the familiar words, actions, symbols and hymns of worship. Hopefully, whether we have been preparing through Advent or not, this beginning of the real Christmas celebration inspires us in renewed Christian love and care for others.

‘Away in a Manger’ is one of the best known and loved Christmas hymns. I recently came across a prayer based on this hymn that beautifully reminds us of how really celebrating Christmas needs to be about love for others, not just fun, parties and material gifts: As we sing ‘away in a manger’ we are reminded of all who are away from home - in hospitals, prisons, working or studying, separated by circumstances beyond their control. Christmas calls us to offer them care and hospitality. As we sing ‘no crib for a bed’ we are reminded of all the homeless in the world - those who have suffered from violence, disasters and epidemics, refugees, children who are orphaned, all who live on our streets. Christmas calls us to work for justice for them. As we sing ‘the little Lord Jesus laid down his sweet head’ we are reminded of those who can’t rest because they fear the future, because of pain or suffering, because they stay awake to serve others. Christmas calls us to pray for them and offer comfort. As we sing ‘the stars in the bright sky’ we are reminded of those who have not seen the light of faith, those who have lost faith, and our own times of darkness. Christmas calls us to share our faith - for the sake of others and ourselves. As we sing ‘be near us Lord Jesus’ we are reminded that we need to constantly seek God’s presence to be aware of what Christmas is really about. Christmas calls us to ask for forgiveness for the ways we have turned away from God and pray that Christ’s spirit of love will be born afresh in us so that we may spread His love throughout the coming year.

May this Advent really prepare us to give and receive Christmas Blessings!

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