As the clocks strike midnight to herald the start of Christmas Day, I will be in church leading our Midnight Communion Service. And I guess I will,
as usual, take the opportunity to be the first person to say to the people gathered there ... Merry Christmas. But even as I utter the words I know
it won’t be merry for all of us. Even here in Sutton Coldfield.
Some will spend their Christmas grieving - fighting back tears as they think of family members who aren’t with them. Some will spend their Christmas able to afford to give to their loved ones only the most meagre of gifts. Some will spend their Christmas in cold rooms, eating not a roast dinner, but the warmed-up contents of a couple of tins given by a food bank.
It seems to me that Christmas has a particular message for people such as these. For the story goes that Jesus spent his first days not in a warm well-stocked home, but in the only place of shelter his parents could find, a lowly stable. The message is clear: I, God, am amongst you – especially those of you who are struggling to get by.
And remember – part of the way God makes his presence a reality to those who are struggling is through our behaviour, our actions. Do you have a neighbour who is lonely, bereaved? Be their friend! Have you met a person who cannot properly provide for themselves? Be their friend.
So to everyone here in Sutton Coldfield, I want to wish you a Merry Christmas. And for those of you who will find the day of celebration a particular struggle, please remember: God is with you – hopefully in the caring actions of those you meet.
[Also published in the Royal Sutton Coldfield Observer,
19th Dec 2014 edition]