My Dear Friends

A survey carried out some time ago on British attitudes to Christmas revealed that the ‘vast majority’ of consumers believe Christmas is overwhelmed by commercial hype and resent the fact that this hype starts as early as October (I reckon it’s earlier still).

But what a strangely contradictory attitude this is!  I mean here we are, the ‘vast majority’ of us, doing our Christmas shopping, spending far more than at any other time of year, fighting our way into the car parks in Maidenhead or Reading, or even braving the shopping jungle of London’s West End.

Or maybe you do all or most of your shopping online, but that can be pretty stressful too. The sheer choice is overwhelming. Not all the information I want is in the item description, and if I email an enquiry, how long will I have to wait for a reply? How many pages of search results can I be bothered to wade through? Have I found the best price? Is this a trustworthy seller? Can I check their stock levels before I commit? Will the present arrive in time? What does ‘item dispatched’ actually mean? Can I arrange someone to take delivery if I’m out? How easy will it be to return the item if I want to?

But nobody is forcing us to do it, so we must actually quite enjoy the commercialism of Christmas after all. And if we’re in the mood to spend, it’s not fair to complain about manufacturers and retailers competing for our custom. By the way, I like giving presents, and yes, I like receiving them (all enquiries about sizes and favourite colours answered promptly!).

Christians believe in a Creator God ‘who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment’ (1 Timothy 6.17). Therefore I think it’s very fitting that the festival of the birth of Jesus, the Son of God, is a time of spending, giving and receiving. No one ever gave such a costly or needed present as God gave us in the Babe of Bethlehem, who through his life, death and resurrection offers us forgiveness, eternity in heaven, the mending of broken relationships and the conquest of evil in the world.

When you look at Christmas that way (sadly, less than 20% in the survey put religion in their top three ‘Christmas likes’), the presents you give and get reinforce the Christian message rather than obscure it. Of course there is such a thing as selfish (and reckless) extravagance which we must avoid – and we all know that those flexible plastic friends have a nasty habit of springing back at us about mid-January!

If this Lych Gate was delivered to your home, or if you live outside Waltham St Lawrence but are on our church Electoral Roll, you will hopefully receive a Christmas card from Harsha and me which has details of all the Christmas events at your church. Please note that as last year we are holding a Crib and Christingle Service on Christmas Eve at 4.00 pm, which is for the whole family, and that the ‘Midnight’ service later that day starts at 11.15pm.

By the way, in case you were wondering what was the top ‘Christmas like’ in that survey I mentioned, it was the family aspect. That’s strange too, as half the women found the extra work stressful and 24% of all respondents admitted that their families spent the time arguing!  Aren’t we a funny lot?

A very happy, peaceful and harmonious Christmas to you all.

Your sincere friend and Vicar