Advent has begun... kids (and some big kids!) will be opening their Advent calendars each morning and the Christmas Countdowns started in the shops weeks ago. Some of us love this time of year, looking forward to festive traditions, getting together with friends and family or just having an extra few days off work. For others, they’ll be relieved when it’s all over, as the pressure of Christmas shopping, finding outfits for the kids’ Christmas play or organising a Christmas lunch all feels rather overwhelming.

However we feel in the lead up to Christmas, it’s worth taking a look back to where it all started, and maybe we will find a new perspective this Advent.  At the first Christmas we find a community of people who were also looking forward; watching, waiting, hoping...  for God to do something. Hundreds of years ago a story had begun of God being involved in their family nation. After generations of ups and downs, they had reached a period of silence from God. Now was the time of questions and unfulfilled promises.

And at the first Christmas, God’s answer came – but probably not the answer most had expected, or been looking for. A tiny baby born to an insignificant girl in a small town, who would grow up to be an everyday man, but who we believe to be the most important person who has ever lived; not just for those people, but for everyone.

The Christmas Carol ‘O Little Town of Bethlehem’ includes the line; “The hopes and fears of all the years are met in Thee tonight.”  How could this baby meet all the needs of all people through history? What made him different? One of the names he was given was ‘Emmanuel’ which means “God with us.” The idea that God became a normal human, is astounding, something we can’t fully get our heads around. He is both the God of complete wisdom, perfection, love and power and a person who knows what it’s like to grow up, live normal life, to face struggles and suffering.  Because of this he could choose by his life, death – and then resurrection to open up a way for others to find forgiveness, hope, and a future. 

As Christians we have found this to be true, and have experienced ‘God with us.’  What are our own hopes and fears as we approach Christmas this year – and will we look to Jesus  and trust him to be all we need?  Or are you someone who hasn’t known God in that way, but sometimes looks at situations in life or the world and longs for something to change? Perhaps Jesus could be the unexpected answer to your questions too.  Wherever you are coming from, it might be helpful among the busyness of the month, to take some time to remind ourselves or find out more about the difference that Jesus made that first Christmas.

You could take a look at some online resources; for example the 24/7 Prayer Podcasts; which have a short video to watch each day or follow through some of the Bible passages focussing on Jesus’ coming. And of course there are lots of Christmas events for all ages happening at Portswood and around the city in the weeks ahead, so take a look at our Christmas page on the website to find out more!