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Getting ready for Christmas

I must confess to being a little frustrated that, as soon as summer is over, the Christmas aisle appears in the shops in September. I watch it slowly grow in size and depth over the next few weeks and, by November, it feels that Christmas must just be a week away. I sometimes wonder who really is shopping this early? I want to blame the shops for starting things way too soon. But I know deep down, if there were no demand for Christmas stock until December, the shops would not waste valuable floor space with things they are not going to sell until later. The shop keepers respond to our demands rather than hopefully entice us to Christmas early. As I write, I am amused that Christmas stock came much earlier than Halloween stock and, by comparison, Christmas stock seems more substantial and worthwhile. I sound a bit like Ebenezer Scrooge in my approach to Christmas but, trust me, if we get on to Christmas lights and the appropriate time for them. I really do become Ebenezer Scrooge!

However, if we go back to the first Christmas and look for the preparations, then we see God’s plan coming together over a period of 15 months. The story starts in Luke’s gospel with Elizabeth and Zechariah, a childless couple. An angel announces to Zechariah, that he is going to have a child. He does not believe it to be possible because they are too old to have children. Yet, Elizabeth does become pregnant. It is to Elizabeth that Mary comes to share her news that she is going to have a child. We are told that Elizabeth is already six months pregnant, despite her old age she becomes proof of what God can do. We are also told that Elizabeth’s baby leapt for joy in her womb when Mary arrived with her good news. Elizabeth and Zachariah’s baby was named John. He became the greatest man that ever lived according to Jesus. We know him much better as John the Baptist.

I am amazed at the contrast between Mary and Elizabeth. We know that Elizabeth was married and older, I guess in her mid to late forties and married to a high priest, her childlessness was a real burden. We know much less about Mary. She was not married but engaged to Joseph and we assume she was quite young. It is suggested that she was a teenager. So, having a baby before being married would have caused some scandal and cast a shadow over Jesus and his parentage. Yet, despite their many differences, they are both righteous before God, chosen to be part of God’s plan and willing to undertake that responsibility of sharing their children with God’s design for the world.

If God can take at least 15 months to plan the first Christmas, who I am to be critical of people who are just getting ready early. Surely that speaks of the importance and significance of Christmas. God did not act like a last-minute shopper on Christmas Eve with shops about to close, making the most of a bad situation!

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