Hold the holy moments

I wonder what your favourite part of Christmas is? Is it the carols, the decorations, the presents, the parties, the food, the cheesy Christmas jumpers?

When I was a teenager, I loved all of those things, but my favourite moment was about 10pm on Christmas Day – when me and my dad would sit in the kitchen, eating a final turkey sandwich – chatting together about the day. All the excitement was over – but the day still felt magical. It felt as though everything was OK in the world – good even. I was sitting there with my dad, safe and glad to be alive, with nothing to prove – just contented and quiet.

We need these moments of quiet reassurance in our lives – when we are held and loved. The pressure these days to keep up an incredible front is just exhausting – whether that’s the pressure of how many likes you have for your Instagram posts or the need to big-up your Christmas plans. Keeping up with the Jones’ has never been so tough.

But we all need times when we can be gentle with ourselves, gentle with each other.

When I think of that need for gentle nurture, I think of Jesus lying in the manger, surrounded by Mary and Joseph and the animals. It’s an image from Christmas that could get over sentimentalized. But in reality it’s a gutsy image – a powerful image – an image that shows us how God came in human form – vulnerable and fragile – just as we are – to walk with us and amongst us and to reveal to us the fullness of God’s love.

God wasn’t distant or indifferent – he came as a little baby – to poor people, announced to poor, working shepherds. He wasn’t born a celebrity or as royalty. He was born without power and influence, even though he was God in human flesh.

Why does this matter?

It matters, because Jesus came to tell us all that we matter to God. We are seen and loved and known by God and we matter to God. We are meant to breathe in that knowledge deeply – so that it creates in us a core of confidence and grace, a knowledge that we – each and every one of us is loved and cherished by God.

The security of this love gives us the strength to love ourselves, to love our neighbours as ourselves. This love gives us the strength to help to make the world a better place: to care for the environment, to care for refugees, to care about the divisions in the world.

We can meet hatred with hatred and it will destroy us.

We can meet hatred with love and in the end love will overcome.

So, this Christmas, hold onto moments of peace, moments of grace, hold onto hope, hold onto love.

Revd Sheridan James, Vicar of St Catherine’s