We are a friendly Christian church, based in the small town of Neston, Wirral, Cheshire, midway between Liverpool and Chester.
When my children were young, at this time of year I would read to them from the “Oxford Christmas Story Book”, and I still remember the magic of that time with youngsters in the house, all of us playing together, the laughter and excitement over the coming Christmas.
Little did I realise how blessed we were when the family was all together and we could travel anywhere to see other relations, play games of all kinds, and embrace each other freely and without thinking about anything as vicious as a deadly virus.
In the Christmas story book I well remember one story about how Oliver Cromwell “banished” Christmas, but in spite of the misery allegedly inflicted by the rulers of the time, the people found ways to hide the delicious smell of the plum puddings, and whisper “Merry Christmas” to each other through the walls of houses.
They played games right under the noses of their leaders and keepers of the law, and generally made a mockery of any who would try and spoil the fun.
I’ve learned since that Oliver Cromwell did not exactly banish Christmas; he objected to the fact that solemn holy day was turned into a time of rowdiness and frivolity, which puts a slightly different slant on things!
There are similarities between 1656 and 2020 - our leaders are also issuing warnings about our behaviour at Christmas, with instructions about how we shouldn’t play games, hug grandparents, and drink too much. And this time, it’s because we might make other people seriously ill. What a year this has been.
But we look forward to finding freedom again, and in the meantime, as we remember the true meaning of Christmas, that God came to be with us, that he became flesh and gave us the greatest gift of all, we can find again the simplicity of this season, the whole purpose of it, and the promise of light in the darkness. Jesus lived our common life on earth, and he understands our every need, especially when we feel low and helpless. Life is tough, but there are beautiful gems amongst the muck of the stable.
I wish you and those whom you love a peaceful, blessed and meaningful Christmas.
Yours in the service of our Lord,