One of my favourite Christmas songs is “Fairy Tale of New York” by The Pogues, a bit risqué, but a song that captures for me a particular time and a particular place and more especially a particular friendship with someone who is no longer with us. The song follows an Irish immigrant's Christmas Eve reverie about holidays past while sleeping off the excesses of Christmas in a New York City Police cell. The capacity of music to capture and hold emotion, memory and story is extraordinary. Something that resembles the ability of certain stone to hold the fossilised imprint of a former life. Our network of connections is extensive, with saints and sinners both living and departed and the imprints that they leave with us can be especially evocative at certain times of the year, like Christmas for example. It is good and helpful to notice their effect upon us, but not to hold too tightly to them, when it is life today that beckons us and not the future or the past. The choice of where we choose to live our life, in the past, in the present or in the future will always have a profound effect upon us and at Christmas, we shall probably visit all of these places as Scrooge did in Charles Dickens tale A Christmas Carol. But it is only the present moment that we can affect and shape and this is ultimately where our life must be lived.
Another favourite song of mine, more often associated in my mind with ordination than with Christmas, but with strong Christmas overtones, is the hymn “Come down O love divine”, which readily reminds me of the reason for the Christmas season. The moment in history when God chose to send his Son to meet and greet and liberate our human family by the power of his grace and through selfless love. The need for individual and corporate forgiveness is always with us, but here in the Christ child we find the means by which our failings and mistakes are not forgotten, but forgiven, and the equivalent of a reset button pressed in order to allow us to begin once again. Sometimes when a computer screen hangs and sticks, the only way to get it going again is to switch the power off and back on again, in order to start once more with a clean screen. Forgiveness works in much the same way, in this case however, the power that was switched off was the life of Jesus Christ upon the cross. But just like our computer example, the power does not stay switched off and neither did Jesus for three days later at Easter he was up and about once again, calling together a new family of followers who eventually formed the first church.
Christmas is many things. It is the loud and raucous party, it is the joyful gatherings and sadly the fallings out and the silent night. But the great gift of Christmas, is that forgiveness and reconciliation has come within our reach. Sometimes our lives need to be reset and in the midst of our festivities let us remember to reach out to receive this, the greatest gift of all.
With every blessing for the Christmas season and the New Year,
Revd. Mike Sermon