For some, this is a really exciting time of year. For others, however, things are not so good. Once we are in the month of December, Christmas is not so far away. The days are still getting shorter, Christmas lights are going up and the children are looking forward to that magical time of tinsel, presents and Christmas carols. But amongst all of this, there are those who, for one reason or another, are not looking forward to Christmas this year. This could be for a variety of reasons such as loneliness, illness, bereavement or homelessness.
It is at this time of year that my thoughts go out to the people of the Holy Land, especially those who live in Bethlehem, the birthplace of our Lord.
O little town of Bethlehem, goes the Christmas carol, how still we see thee lie. Above thy deep and dreamless sleep the silent stars go by. This gives us the idyllic picture of peace and tranquillity - but no more, I’m afraid. In the first century the population of Bethlehem would probably have been less than 1,000. Today Bethlehem is a bustling town of some 25,000 people administered by the Palestinian authority. As with so many towns and cities in the area it is caught up in the tensions which exist in the Middle East these days. And as a result of these tensions, the number of Christians living in the area is diminishing. According to representatives of the Christian community in Jerusalem, the number of Christians leaving Bethlehem and other towns and cities seems to be on the rise.
So this Christmas, let us not forget all those who are finding life difficult. Mary and Joseph found life difficult when Mary was about to give birth - no room at the inn. Eventually Jesus was born in the most humble of surroundings.
One way in which we remember those less fortunate than ourselves is by raising money for the Children’s Society who are there for vulnerable children when they feel they have no one they can turn to for help. You can help by coming along to the Christingle service on Christmas Eve at 4.00pm in the Parish Church. If you would like to collect money in advance, then pop into church and pick up a cardboard candle and use it for your loose change. Then bring your candle along to church on Christmas Eve, but come early – the church will be packed!
So as we celebrate the birth of Jesus this Christmas let us not forget all those throughout the world who are less fortunate than we are.
With very best wishes at this season of the year!
Licensed Lay Minister and Churchwarden