It is that time of year again when in words of the Nine Lessons and Carol services of my youth when it is “our care and delight to prepare ourselves to hear again the message of the angels; in heart and mind to go even unto Bethlehem and see this thing which is come to pass, and the Babe lying in a manger.”
How have you found the preparations for Christmas 2023? What cares are on your mind and your heart as you travel through the last few days before once more meeting the babe who is lying in a manger? God willing there is joy, hope and anticipation, but given all that is unfolding around us in a struggling world, perhaps a tinge of fear and uncertainty. This was so for Mary and Joseph that first Christmas and it was in Bethlehem that their hopes and fears, and our hopes and fears are met in the infant Christ.
We can and must have hope. It's the hope born in a humble manger, a hope that transcends time and space. It's the hope that assures us that amidst the chaos and unpredictability of this world, there is a plan unfolding—one that offers redemption, grace, and an unwavering promise of love. It's the hope rooted in the belief that the Light which entered the world in the form of a vulnerable baby continues to shine, guiding us through whatever may come our way. But too in that manger, there is a recognition of our fears. Fear of the unknown, of the challenges that 2024 may bring, of the struggles we may face personally, as a church and as a community. Sometimes it can feel that fear threatens to dim the light of hope and anxiety can overwhelm, but we can trust that Jesus is with us, that God “imparts to human hearts, the blessings of his heaven.”
In that little town of Bethlehem, which remains a place of hope and very real fear, in the birth of Jesus we have a hope. This hope was offered to a world steeped in fear 2000 years ago, and this hope remains on offer for us today. Are we ready to put down our anxieties, turn away from those things offer only shallow satisfaction and instead cling on to the hope that fills us with all joy and peace? (Romans 15:13) That hope is found only in Jesus!
Have a very Merry Christmas and a hope filled New Year.
Revd Sarah Todd