By The Rev’d Preb Julian Ould
Grandchildren can come out with some amazing statements sometimes. Last Christmas I asked Oskar what he hoped Father Christmas would bring him. His brother Rory had written a list of things as long as your arm, which is a typical small child’s wish, but not Oskar. He said, “I will be happy with whatever Father Christmas chooses to give me.” Oskar is six years old and this statement has remained with me ever since.
What do we expect for Christmas? To stay with my grandchildren, it was not that Rory was wrong and Oskar right, but reflected a different outlook on expectations. Both Rory and Oskar knew they would get something nice and to be fair our daughter had asked them to put some ideas on paper to help her find the presents, but Oskar is a lad who likes nice things, but doesn’t put the same value on material things. What matters to him, and yes to Rory, is to be part of a happy home, and whilst boys will be boys, they get on well together and enjoy doing things together.
Looking at the Christmas Market, it would seem that Christmas might be about food. All manner of tempting smells waft across the Green whilst vast quantities of delights are dished out to apparently hungry people. True there are the gift stalls for all those presents we didn’t know we wanted, but it is only when I come round to the figures in our Nativity scene that Christmas starts to register to me and I am so glad this features in our Market.
So, what does Christmas mean to me? Well, lots of things. Nothing gives me greater joy than to see the happy faces of children opening a Christmas stocking or presents under a tree. Possibly because I am a little older and am lucky enough to have lots of nice things, I get much more pleasure giving things to others, than anything I might receive and seeing the joy this brings. Food also features, in spite of my comments about the Christmas market. Hospitality has always featured in my life and I like nothing more than a good party and on Christmas day we will be nine for our festive meal together; such a joy.
Decorations are another aspect of Christmas for me. Trees with sparkly lights. It is a joy to walk through the city with its decorations that guarantee to bring a smile, and indeed happiness has to feature in how I see Christmas. Close on the heels of decorations comes music, which has always been important to me. Along with so many, I love singing carols. Christmas cards are also part of what Christmas is to me and the chance to catch up with ‘round robin’ letters to friends who perhaps only communicate at Christmas. But is all of this what Christmas is about?
The answer in part, is yes, but behind all of this is a reason which changed the world for ever. Before the advent of the Christ child, we lived in a world where life was cheap and people didn’t care very much. The coming of Jesus into our world changed this and whilst so many claim not be Christian, by and large we do care, hence all the celebrations. Christmas for me is about the fact that God so loved the world that he gave his only son that we might have life, life in Him, which is eternal. It is quite remarkable, but it is true and this is what Christmas is really about. In seeing the immensity of God’s love as his gift to us, we too can with confidence echo the words of my grandson: “I will be happy with whatever He wants to give me”, and so rejoice. Happy Christmas everyone.