At this time of year, we frequently hear two familiar jingles, “Tis the season to be jolly, fa la la la la” or the line from Noddy Holder song, “~So here it is Merry Christmas everybody's having fun.”
And yes, for a great number of the population, that may well be how they do feel - buying presents, in beautifully decorated shopping malls, giving gifts, celebrating, new party clothes, decorations, presents and more presents and on it goes….
But just for a moment, imagine yourself as being one of those for whom it’s not all jolly, glittery and fun.
Consider for a moment, would you have imagined it being fun for Mary and Joseph, on their long journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem to register to be taxed? Mary having to ride on a donkey - no Smart car or taxi, no bus or train - just a long and dusty road, as we know from the carols we sing.
Not going in anticipation of arriving at a hotel, or even any place known to them, just anywhere that had room for a couple with a baby about to be born. Bit of a hopeless story really!
And yet a journey that God took them on, to reveal this baby, who was to be the Saviour of the World.
Just how far have we stepped from the reality of the Christmas story? Many in our world face day to day issues of momentous sadness and struggle; “ tis the season to be jolly “ does not sound the same if you’re homeless, neither too a refugee living in a war-torn land, or if life is tough and everything seems against you.
Christmas can and does bring much sadness as well as joy - remembering family you have loved and lost, facing illness with no real hope of getting back to normal health, being lonely and many other situations where people feel bereft and abandoned.
Here in Warrington Market, where I am Chaplain, is a place of struggle of a different kind. So much change has been happening for traders in the last eighteen months with many struggling to cope with loss of earnings, along with challenges created by the change in the way people shop these days. As a Chaplain, I constantly listen to the heart wrenching issues people share and pray for a happy outcome for them, which with all my heart I hope may happen as the New Year approaches.
The surrounding area has seemed very much like working on a building site - but as the new construction of a temporary market is fitted out, perhaps the road will seem a little easier, even with hope returning. As we look back on life, we often wonder how we got through some of life’s struggles.
For myself, my faith has kept me on the road and with all my heart. I hope and pray for all who are finding life an uphill battle at the moment:
A ray of hope that flickers in the sky,
A tiny star lights the way up high,
All across the land, dawns a brand new morn,
This comes to pass when a child is born.
The blessing of Christmas be with you,