What we love about Christmas

Christmas is first and foremost a true story about the love of God leading to the most selfless act of sending his Son into our world to become one of us. The story itself is so simple and humble that without reflection it is easy to miss the depth of meaning and love demonstrated through the Incarnation.


What makes Christmas special for me, writes Melanie Dooner, is hearing people’s encounter with God’s love in their life and seeing their response to this and giving love to others in whatever way they can.


I was inspired recently by Meredith, a mum of two primary-aged boys who is a palliative care nurse. Meredith spoke of Christmas as both a beautiful and a challenging time as she navigates the natural excitement of her children with the reality of her patient’s challenges who she works with daily.



I was most struck by her reason for not taking holidays over the Christmas period. The concern and love Meredith has for her patients as they face terminal illness, especially as their loneliness becomes more pronounced over the holidays, outweighs her desire to take time off and motivates her to give as much of herself to them as she can.


For Terrie, the Christmas story of Jesus being born into poverty and one priest’s response to it inspired a change in how she and her family now celebrate Christmas each year.


Just weeks before Christmas in 2019, a new priest arrived in Terrie’s vibrant parish in Sydney’s southwest. Without missing a beat, the new parish priest shared something of his personal mission for their parish and organised a Christmas lunch for people who had no one to spend Christmas with.


Completely unaware of this need, the parish was in awe when two weeks later eight people who were also Christmas ‘orphans’ sat around a Christmas table together to celebrate the birth of Jesus.


The following year, the Christmas Lunch grew through advertising and word of mouth. Terrie’s family was one of those who felt compelled to respond to the invitation to help. Along with her husband, Les, eldest daughter Elizabeth, and 13-year-old twins Emily and Meekah, they decided they could provide a portion of the meal, help organise the lunch and provide much-needed conversation.


“While the kids weren’t as enthusiastic about the conversation,” Terrie added, “when push comes to shove, our kids are talkers. My three girls also play violin and with encouragement, they played Christmas music much to the delight of our guests.”


As Terrie reflects on that first Christmas lunch they attended, and the others that followed, the ‘why’ they got involved was simple. “We don’t have any family to visit, we don’t have others to invite to our table, it’s just us,” she said.


“In some ways we are a little like those who joined the first table at the Christmas Lunch – we didn’t have people to share Christmas with. It’s not that we’re generous or kind or anything like that. It was a chance to share the day with others.”


Where many would find sharing Christmas with strangers a struggle, for Terrie and her family and the many others who help it is a blessing.


Whether we encounter Jesus in the people we know and care for in our work and in our homes or encounter him in the complete strangers who cross our paths, this Christmas encounter is special. It is the gift of Jesus Himself given to us by our God who loves us and wants us to meet him every day, and who calls us to respond with love ourselves.


And Kate Moriarty writes …


I have this one friend. Let’s call her Bev. Bev sets out every October with ruthless efficiency, and a well-ordered list. She procures thoughtful Christmas gifts for every family member and work-colleague-KK. She wraps each present in stylish gift wrap, places them under her tastefully decorated tree and announces to the rest of us that she’s finished her Christmas shopping.


She might bake now.


It’s safe to say that for most of December, I hate Bev. For most of December, Bev and I don’t talk. Well, we do talk, but I do it through gritted teeth. I’m not sure that Bev’s aware of my supreme loathing and I always renew our friendship in January, but December is a write-off.


When I was a child, Christmas was a beacon. I was filled with excitement at the thought of music and decorations and yum food and exciting presents. I wasn’t really required to do much except glue glitter to wonky icy-pole-sticks, open cardboard windows in the advent calendar (to reveal a line of scripture – no chocolates for us!) and count sleeps until the big day.


It’s different now. I still look forward to December 25, but with mounting dread. Why do I find Christmas so hard? There’s so much to remember! So much to do! So many ways to fail! So many ways to let people down!


Part of my problem is that I think it has to be all up to me. Christmas for a large family is a lot of work, but a large family also has a lot of workers. I need to let go and allow others to step up, even if it means things happen imperfectly.


My other problem is that I’ve created this inflated idea of what Christmas is supposed to be. I blame the ads. We can burn ourselves out trying to recreate Christmases that never were. We remember childhood Christmases as these magical times. Our memory cherry-picks the excitement and wonder and leaves out times when we were bored or disappointed. It is a comfort to know that our kids will probably do the same.


I need to remember that Christmas is not just a calculated strategy to give the retail economy a much-needed boost. No matter how desperately advertisers try to hide it, at the heart of this festival is the mystery of the incarnation. God becoming a vulnerable human and living among us.


When I allow the joy that comes from this to flow into everything else, then Christmas is no longer a chore. Everything – the decorations, the food, the gifts, the events – becomes an expression of that joy.


So this Christmas, when Bev turns up on my doorstep with surprise biscuits that she has made me herself, even though we agreed that we are not doing presents; when Bev turns up with surprise biscuits that are so adorable they could double as ornaments, surprise biscuits that are tastefully presented in a mason jar with fabric and the recipe written out; this Christmas, when Bev and Bev’s biscuits arrive, I will smile broadly and genuinely. I will put the kettle on and we will enjoy them together.


Because God loves us so much that he became one of us, a tiny baby, and that warrants a treat.


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