Everyone and everything seems to be counting the days down to Christmas Day. How we count varies in different circumstances. The most popular method of throwing us into panic is to quote the number of shopping days left before Christmas. Another favourite, particularly when there is chocolate involved, is an Advent calendar where the days are counted up to Christmas Eve. The church counts the Sundays in Advent and Christmas follows after the 4th Sunday of Advent. Christmas is also marked by many deadlines like the last day to order and receive an item before Christmas. The postal and delivery deadlines are key to getting your presents delivered on time. If you want to send surface mail to Europe, sadly you are already too late and you have missed the deadline! The 18th of December is the parcel deadline for the UK and 1st class mail UK deadline is the 20th of December. Every year there are tales of woe as deadlines and deliveries are missed, much to the disappointment of expectant friends and family. It is amazing how something so simple like giving a present can become quite difficult. Or perhaps having a special meal is remembered for the trouble of getting the ingredients together! I remember talking to the butcher who told me how people forgot to collect the turkey!
It is worth remembering the first Christmas, a young woman expecting a baby goes home to the relations. It sounds simple until everyone else is doing the same thing and returning to their home town at the same time! It always sounds to me that the same lady had an early delivery which she seemed unprepared for in terms of place and support. Christmas should be about happiness and joy not about deadlines and organisational nightmares. At the heart of the celebration is the gift of a child called Jesus to Mary and Joseph. The deadlines come later on Good Friday but Christmas is the celebration of a gift and new hope. Christmas is about birth and a beginning; it has nothing to do with an ending. Instead of it being described in terms of deadlines and to-do lists, it is about a lifeline. It is a lifeline that God offers to each of us. The most important thing that you can do with a lifeline is to grab hold of it and hold on for dear life. To watch and admire a lifeline and see it pass by is to lose a chance to grab hold of your life. The lifeline that connects us to God also connects us to our friends and family. Christmas is a great time to reconnect with friends and family, to savour life. At the heart of it comes joy and thanksgiving for the love of those around us and a gift from God. We are drawn into wonder at the gift of life and hope in the shape of a baby. A baby called Jesus who is full of hope and potential.