Given that I help lead a church, I can find myself getting considerably grumpy at this time of year.
I look at when the decorations are going up in houses and when the festive adverts appear on TV and declare, ‘This is ridiculous, Christmas is getting earlier every year!’
Yet a brief search on the internet suggests that there’s not really the evidence that Christmas is getting earlier each year. Researchers have tracked similar things to me [but probably in a more professional and less grumpy way!], as well as when the word ‘Christmas’ starts appearing on social media and some say ‘yes’ and some say ‘no’.
What I am pretty sure of though, is that getting into the ‘festive spirit’, whether that’s putting up your tree or playing Christmas music, is fuelled by a desire to tap into a sense of joy, warmth and cheer that is perhaps lacking right now. Can Christmas do that for us?
Well let’s look the first Christmas and some of the events leading up to it.
A man called Luke records them in his account of Jesus, which we find in the Bible. This year I’ve been amazed at how he seems keen for his readers to understand the sense of joy and celebration surrounding Jesus’ birth. Here’s a brief summary:
Even in the midst of living under the pressure of Roman occupation, plus the usual difficult circumstances of life in the 1st century, there is joy in the arrival of this baby.
Mary joyfully sings that God is her Saviour. He is the rescuer and she is joyful because she knows that through the birth of Jesus, God will bring rescue. However it is not rescue from the Romans, but rather rescue from ourselves and the mess and sin we have got us and others into. A few chapters later, Luke records the words of Jesus’ first sermon, as he takes the words of Isaiah 61 as being about him.
‘The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
because he has anointed me
to preach good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
and recovery of sight for the blind,
to release the oppressed,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour'.
When I get grumpy about what people do and don’t do at this time of year, I need to remember that the joy they’re grasping for is, in a really odd way, right under their noses. It’s there in the very word ‘Christmas’. It is found in Jesus and all he came to do!
Jubilee, we have come to know this Jesus and have come to know the joy that our world is desperate for. We, along with thousands of Christians across Teesside, have the answer to all their longings and Christmas gives us the perfect opportunity to share this with those around us. ‘We Rejoice’ is one of our values and it is no less on display at Christmas. We are full of joy that in Jesus, God has come to us and we’ve experienced the rescue and release that he spoke of in Isaiah 61.
Perhaps you’re reading this and haven’t come to know Jesus yet or know this rescue and release. You can know him this Christmas and know a joy that is deeper and more satisfying than anything else. One thing you can do is join us for our Christmas Carols on 8th December. You'd be really welcome! Another thing might be coming along to something we run called Alpha in the New Year. It's a great way of asking all your big questions about life and exploring how the Christian faith approaches them.
Finally, if you like Christmas videos, check out this one by Glen Scrivener. Happy Christmas!
Watching my children sing and dance along to their favourite worship song taught me a couple of lessons about joy and faith. Jesus also had a lot of say about having childlike fath when teaching his disciples in Luke 18.
This will be the first Easter in three years that we’re able in Jubilee to gather together to celebrate, and the Easter message is still as powerful as it was 2,000 years ago!
Starting on Tuesday 15th March we are committing a whole month to prayer. Prayer has always been the bedrock of a Christian life with God. Prayer is what unites us to God in the here and now. Through prayer we experience the friendship and lordship of God through His Word and Spirit. In prayer we come to all three persons of our One Majestic God.