The true meaning of Christmas can so easily be overlooked if the Church doesn’t share with others what it really is all about. Christmas has become one of those times of year that causes people to have great expectations. Some can’t wait for and relish all the bright, fun, festive aspects. The turning on of Christmas lights in a town or city centre with a celebrity present draws enthusiastic crowds. Twinkling lights in and around the shop displays are there to dazzle. The availability of cheaper Christmas lights means many more houses are draped enthusiastically. There are many images of reindeer, sleighs, father Christmas, Christmas trees, presents or falling snow scenes.

There are fashion trends in this season too. We have our winter whites, our Christmas reds. Out come the furry, fluffy fashions, the glitter, the cute Christmas jumpers for kiddies. And out come the traditional Christmas jumpers for men and yes, of course, the Christmas socks. It’s almost impossible not to pass comment. Few people feel indifferent about these last items. So many who feel indifferent about Jesus have never had the opportunity to hear and understand the real significance of Christmas. There is plenty to be excited about in understanding that Jesus is God’s perfect Gift to us.

Some look forward to the great Christmas advert competition. The past trend for sentimental adverts with exquisite sentimental music and the angelic voice is waning. This year seems to feature large family gatherings. The conversations in these adverts at least seem to suggest that this may cause some tension at times. It is suggested the issues are whether Yorkshire puddings are acceptable at a Christmas lunch, or whether sprouts should be offered, or how the turkey is basted. There is great expectation about what will be served. Of course it’s the sharing and caring that really matters.

For others this Christmas season is full of TV expectations. There’s the climax of Strictly Come Dancing, the final of the X Factor, and the question of who will be crowned King or Queen of the jungle in ‘I’m a Celebrity Get me out of Here’. There’s the battle for Christmas Day ratings between the soaps or a special Christmas Day drama. The Queen’s Christmas speech too is still a strong feature. The impact of all these programmes and the celebrities though will be short lived and soon forgotten. The fact that ‘God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son’ (John 3:16) remains constant throughout the years as the ultimate demonstration of His goodness and generosity towards us.

f course it’s the season when there are the greatest numbers of gifts bought, often at great cost and those gifts are received by some with such great expectations. But that joy can be short lived if it’s not already gone after the frustration of being in busy, noisy Christmas shopping queues. Those tinny sounding, old tired Christmas songs can begin to set the nerves jangling. The pleasure of buying gifts can be tainted if we’ve gone beyond a sensible budget. Those flashing Christmas displays can be just a little annoying on tired eyes and even more irritating on a biting cold night, travelling in the dark with over-tired, restless children.

And seriously, what great expectation is there in this season for the homeless, the lonely, the person facing their first Christmas after the loss of their loved one or those hospitalised or near life’s end? This season, sadly, will be the catalyst for other family traumas such as the ending of marriages, domestic violence and death from addictive substances and accidents and other things not yet imagined.

The greatest gift given to us and to the world is Jesus. He is your Saviour. He is unchanging, faithful, loving, kind, caring, compassionate a helper, healer, our great hope in time of trouble. Psalm 46:1. He is the source of your real lasting peace and joy. At J28 we too want to reach out in love to share a word of encouragement and hope. The bible says in 2 Corinthians 9:15 ‘Thank God for His Son – a gift too wonderful for words’ and that’s how we feel about Jesus here at J28 Church. This Christmas season and in the coming New Year, no matter what your circumstances, we are ready to welcome you and invite you to come with real expectation.

Bless you,

Marina Watts