By Rev Robert Barthram, Dec 5 2015 04:43PM
A month ago I wrote about our changing world and said, ‘if there is one constant it is change: that change is constant.’ I went on to say how there is one other constant other than change that we may rely on for we have faith in a God who is unchanging and may be trusted.
Now Christmas is approaching a time when much is familiar and seems unchanging but it is certainly not always the same. As I look back to last Christmas I remember a very different occasion. Our grandson was born 12 days before Christmas and then spent over a month in neo-natal units.
Ironically Viv and I awoke Christmas morning in a stranger’s home. Our host’s cultural background meant for them Christmas Eve was the big day so for them Christmas had already happened while ours was yet to come. We drove to our daughter’s before leaving for the hospital (a journey usually only done on public transport but this day by car through deserted streets and with no parking restrictions in central London) not worship as is our normal habit on Christmas Day.
When our daughter and son-in-law arrived at the hospital they found a Christmas card waiting for them, prepared by Friends of the hospital with a photo in it of their son and written to mum and dad, a card they treasure. The atmosphere in the unit was its usual efficiency and care but with something special that day. Lunchtime arrived and it was down to the canteen with a fine choice of sandwiches to choose from. There was however the traditional Christmas lunch with all the trimmings but that was for the staff and for which there was a long queue. I was glad they were being treated well and so grateful they were there and sacrificing time with family and loved ones.
Eventually we left and returned to our daughter’s and there were some of the trappings of a traditional Christmas Day but they all seemed a bit strange and subdued.
For most of us it was the first time we had not been at worship on Christmas Day. We commented on how strange it was to not be singing our praises and thanks that day for the birth at Bethlehem. It was still Christmas, we had been in a place full of very unwell babies and the day was marked even there. We were given a stark reminder that birth is precarious even today with all our modern hospitals so how much more would it have been so in ancient times and how much more is it in some places and situations in our world today without sanitation and medical assistance!
The amazing truth of Christmas, the creator of all became a human being with the risks of childbirth and the vulnerabilities of a baby. Our nativity plays can make it appear very cute and cuddly but this was a birth away from home without normal family support with accommodation in an area of a house normally used by animals, an animal feeding trough is certainly not ideal as a cradle. It is as we sing in one of our carols:
“Lo, within a manger lies
He who built the starry skies”
Let us never cease to be amazed at the risks our Saviour God took for us.
Wishing you joy and peace at Christmas,