But after Joseph had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” (which means “God with us”). When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife. But he did not consummate their marriage until she gave birth to a son. And he gave him the name Jesus. Matthew 1:20-25
A couple of days ago, in our local supermarket, I said to the young lady at the checkout, ‘Merry Christmas’. Yes, it is that time of year again, it is Christmas. The day before I passed on my first Christmas greeting of 2018, I had been on the London Underground travelling to the city for a meeting. As I stood on the platform waiting for the train, I was looking at the array of advertising billboards on the wall on the other side of the track. One of them grabbed my attention, it said something like: “Christmas is all about family and friends’ but the words family and friends had a line through them and, over the top was written the word ‘presents’. This was an advert for an online Christmas gift website!
As I looked at this, I reflected on the message that was being presented to the thousands upon thousands of people who will read it. Clearly, the message is that Christmas has nothing to do with Christ!
While I am saddened to see this, and so many other ‘messages’ that leave Christ out of Christmas, I am also really encouraged by the fact that there are still millions of people who do make some time for Jesus during the Christmas period. In the UK where I live, church buildings that are almost empty for much of the year are often filled to overflowing for carol services. In addition, there are so many other places and occasions where the story is told as churches use other buildings and locations as venues for celebrating and sharing the story of the birth of Jesus.
Christmas provides us with a great opportunity to join Jesus in His Mission and it is vital that we make the most of what is still a unique opportunity.
A number of years ago a Christian ministry engaged in a huge national survey in which they asked people across the UK who don’t go to church two questions:
“When would you be most likely to go to church”?
“What would be most likely to get you to go”?
The answers were:
“A Personal Invitation”.
Over the next few weeks I want to draw some important things out of the bible story about the birth of Jesus but, during this week, as Christmas begins to take centre stage, be asking God who you could ‘invite’ to hear the story this Christmas.