Thought for the month

CHRISTMAS PRESENT

Live for the present!

This is usually a hedonistic mantra about enjoying life to the full, extracting every ounce of pleasure from every waking moment. Of course there’s nothing wrong with living in the present, after all that’s the only time we have and it is a waste to over-fill it with hankerings after the past or pipe-dreams for the future. But sometimes, particularly in times of pain, a retreat into the past or future is a necessary escape from the present. After all life is a mixture not only of joy, beauty and serenity, but also, at times, pain, distress, sorrow and frustration which can fill our present, just as much, and perhaps more obtrusively than the joyful things.

The absolute kernel of Christmas is the gift of God to his creation who needed him and who still need him. It was achieved quietly, barely noticeably. It is a strange event, particularly when we consider it in the light of what was to follow. When we consider that we are still celebrating the birth of this child over 2000 years ago to insignificant parents in an insalubrious stable. It is strange, when one considers the paraphernalia of Christmas all around us, that there was no Christmas tree, no feasting or carolling, there were no bright lights or shops open all hours to buy all the baby necessities.  Even the special signs of the birth, were stage managed very strangely - a star, noticed only by some peculiar foreigners and a host of angels apparently only witnessed by shepherds, one might say wasted on shepherds who were pretty much the lowest of the low.

A strange event indeed, but the gift of God in the person of the child Jesus, was a gift which grew and spread and continues to grow and spread. It is the most precious, wonderful gift we could ever have received.  It’s difficult, particularly (and ironically) at this time of year, to make a little stable-shaped space, without all the Christmas fripperies. But it is worth making even a small space to contemplate the absolute, unadorned awe of God becoming human, becoming one of us, taking our hand and accompanying us into our own evolving present.  

Because of that first Christmas, God shares our present, and because Jesus lived a life not only of beauty, joy and serenity, but also with its share, and more than its share, of pain, distress, sorrow and frustration, we know that he is as close in moments of pain as of joy; he is close in the quiet darkness as well as in riotous celebration. This is the essence of Christmas; this is why it still matters 2000 years later; this is why it is commemorated by poor as well as rich, by people living in war-torn countries as well as peaceful ones, by the sorrowful as well as the joyful.  

This is what it truly means - Emmanuel – God present with us.  

I wish you a blessed Christmas.

Eleanor Zuercher