The Bishop of Bedford’s Christmas message

I am not surprised to learn that a survey says that the story of Christ’s birth is still really well known, even if some think that Joseph and Mary were on their first date when they found out that she was pregnant and others thought they were married.

As the story of Christmas 2012 unfolds, what will our Christmases leave us looking back on? All too often, it’s about the expectation that it will all be marvellous but the reality doesn’t always give us the memories we hope for.

Just now, as we are busy ahead of the festivities of next week, there is one group of people who are preparing for something else. They believe the prediction of the ancient Mayan people that the world is about to end. Their preparations are based on their belief in that story and that is reflected in their actions.

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Don’t worry, I’m not about to be trendy and espouse a fringe belief, but we can draw a lesson from people whose beliefs so clearly inform their actions, even if all focused on one day.

Can we allow ourselves to let the age-old story Nativity story that is still full of wonder similarly inspire us this year?

Can we let it inspire us to the point where it filters more deeply into our preparations, our celebrations and our actions? That is where it is capable of giving us something to look back on in the sometimes bleak aftermath of feasting and fun and in the face of the news that can be all too awful.

The news was awful when Christ was born too: for him and for others. Life was no picnic in Bethlehem. God’s birth was not about ending suffering but about being with us.

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It’s a story with the power to do that. A story about God coming among us not just to say we are not alone in the midst of the chaos of human life, but one where God takes on the vulnerability felt by us all at some time in our lives. God with us amidst the pain of Connecticut and Syria; with the homeless, lonely and vulnerable wherever they are this Christmastime.

May the birth of Jesus in a manger bring you comfort and joy this Christmas.

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