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Everywhere you go it is beginning to look like Christmas and many shops seem to have been displaying their Christmas wares for weeks or even months. It’s the time of year when we engage in traditional activities like trying to find a parking space at the shopping centre when many of us turn to those finely honed techniques that we have perfected over the years. For some that involves using our passengers as lookouts to spot someone who appears the be returning to their car laden with shopping who we follow with the same determination as those wise men following the star. The chances are that somewhere amongst that shopper’s overflowing bags of Christmas goodies there will be some Brussels Sprouts and if there is one word that immediately turns our thoughts to Christmas it is ‘sprouts’.
Now sprouts are an interesting vegetable because for each of us that loves them it seems that there are half a dozen others who think ughhh! These days you can find most vegetables in the supermarket all year round but when I was a boy the sprout season was short and centred around Christmas so they still make me think of Christmas dinner. Love them or hate them everyone had to have a sprout on their plate and unless you had come up with an ingenious scheme to make it miraculously disappear it was still on the plate when everything else had gone. That, of course, was when the parental coaxing and eventually threats began and continued until it was gone.
Of course, sprouts are not the only thing that you either love or hate. Marmite is another and then there is Christmas shopping. Some of us enjoy the thrill of fighting through the crowds to pick up a last minute bargain while others have bought and wrapped their presents before they have even set-off on their summer holidays. The same is true of writing Christmas cards. By the time that you read this many of you will have already written yours while others of us will experience the annual panic when we realise that the last day of posting has arrived. Once again we’ll make a new year’s resolution to get our cards organised earlier next year but we know deep down that it won’t happen.
However we choose to prepare for Christmas, I hope we remember that Jesus didn’t come into a world of late night shopping and lights but into a world of hardship; a world where a pregnant mother had to make do with a stable to have her baby; a world of discrimination and pain and oppression. Sadly, for some Christmas 2017 will be little different, perhaps a time of sadness or loneliness or a time when there is overwhelming pressure to spend money they have not got. For so many Jesus himself is an irrelevant accessory to Christmas just like the sprout on the dinner plate. As Christmas approaches let us try as best as we are able to show that the Prince of Peace is not just a character in some cosy story that is told at Christmas but that he is the very foundation of the world that God created.
Churchwarden, St. Laurence