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Faith Comment published in the Petersfield Post

26 December 2018: Simon Mason, Life Church Petersfield

The Gift of Christmas

Well Christmas is over for another year. It's likely that the food has mostly been eaten, the presents have been opened, all the carols have been sung and the best television programmes have been watched. So let's move on and look forward to the New Year and 2019, shall we?

But Christmas isn't over. The trees and decorations are still up and the season doesn't officially end until Ephinany on 6th January.

So what is left of Christmas this year? It's sometimes called the season of goodwill, when gifts are given, people might strike up different conversations, interact more widely, and look for opportunities to be generous and giving. It's a time of year for festivals, dating back to Roman and pre Roman times, and it's midwinter, the winter solstice, in the northern hemisphere. In the third century the early Christians chose this as the time to celebrate Christmas, the birth of Jesus.

Apart from the obvious things that we know about Christmas, what is so special about it? The accounts in the Bible say that it's a time of 'good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Saviour has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.' And when the shepherds heard this message, 'they said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.” '

Jesus, the baby born in Bethlehem, is whom Christians believe is Immanuel, 'God with us'. Not just a baby, but God himself, in human form. Good news indeed.

And when later on wise men from the east visited Bethlehem, 'on coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshipped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.'

Christmas is indeed a time of gifts. Giving to each other and to those in need. And knowing that the birth of the baby over 2000 years ago was the most wonderful gift, good news bringing great joy, the coming of God on Earth and the possibility of knowing his love and presence in our lives.

The next PACT Prayer Day will be held next Wednesday, 25 July, at The Salvation Army Hall between 8:00 am and 8:00 pm. The day will be organised and run by members of Life Church Men's Group and the theme will be Praying for Men - all are most welcome.

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