Can we have a message of hope this Christmas ?

Not platitudes, not wishful thinking, not denial, but in the reality of the worst recession in living memory, where is the hope this Christmas ?

There is hope – the old has passed away and we will grieve for it, but the new is coming-in.

The new will certainly be different and may be better. For example, if we should lose the selfishness and greed which has been so much in evidence over the last 30 years. What life will be like we don’t know, but we’re talking about a new order, a new world, but… first, we have to go through the transition – and that will be painful! This is the reality we’re facing this Christmas.

The last 10 years we’re been living off increased debt. Our perceived prosperity has in actual fact been increased poverty – we just hadn’t realised it. Now with property prices fallen and falling, we do! With banks (and not just banks) having become insolvent, we can no longer increase our debt to fund our living expenditure. Accordingly, our standard of living will reduce enormously – our ability to spend as we’ve become used to has simply stopped dead. What is more, we have the double whammy – not just that we can’t borrow more to spend, but that we also now have to start paying back what we have previously borrowed.

We’ve already seen the initial effects of this in the High Street with Woolworths and MFI going into administration. We see cut-throat competition, offers and reductions everywhere; Christmas sales in November – unprecedented in modern times. If you have money to spend, there are bargains galore, but for the many many people who don’t have money to spend, they just won’t or can’t buy. The Government’s idea of borrowing money to reduce VAT therefore doesn’t make sense – reducing prices isn’t going to make any difference. Our problems (both in the UK and globally) arise from taking on too much debt. To borrow more is not a solution and the final irony is the announcement in the pre-budget report that we will borrow £15 million so as to provide debt counselling!!

So what is required ? Well, what is being forced upon us – is a total re-evaluation of what life is all about.

The world has fundamentally changed. Our materialistic society has collapsed. Through this enormous shake-up we begin to see that much of what we bought and valued was not really important. Our shop till we drop mentality, our need for the latest IT gadget – our materialistic advertising-induced wants are not real needs. We can live without them and we’re going to have to.

If we don’t know someone who’s lost their job, we soon will ! We may even be made redundant our-self. There are no easy solutions, we may even become bankrupt – lose everything. Hopefully this won’t happen to us, but it may do – and it certainly will to some. So where is the hope this Christmas if you’re worried and facing possible redundancy or if you’ve actually been made redundant or alternatively, if the attitude of your employer is that “you’re lucky to have a job and therefore you’ll do anything” – effectively a slave?

Well, the important thing to remember is that our worth does not derive from what we do. It does not derive from our job or being in paid employment. It does not derive from our status or position in society. Our worth derives from being what we are – human beings made in the image of God. This Christmas let’s remember an illegitimate child, born in a shed, who was persecuted, tortured and killed; and that
God cares, He’s been there, and Life goes on

Our dreams may be shattered, what we’ve lived for may be no more, but
God cares, He is still there, and Life goes on

Our initial reaction may be shock, denial, shame, anger, depression, or all of these. It may feel like a bereavement – in a very real way, it is. We’ve lost our vision for life, our pride in life, our understanding of life. But… our vision was a mirage. We need a new vision, a true vision for life.

And this is what Christmas is all about. Christmas is where eternity (ie ultimate reality) breaks into this world of ours – eternity going back to the beginning of time and going forward to the end of time and beyond – the coming of Jesus Christ to this world of ours.

Jesus was involved in Creation at the beginning of time. In the period up to the first Christmas people were forgiven on the basis of what Jesus would do when He came down to earth from heaven, who is God and Lord of all. He was born to die. He became a human being – the Son of Man.

For thousands and thousands of years Jesus knew He was going to have to die – the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. And then the time at last came – the first Christmas, His life on earth, and then Gethsemane. Was He really going to go through with this. Thank God, God did!

The basis of the forgiveness of those people who lived before Jesus, and those of us who live after, stood-up to the ultimate test. The central act of all history offering forgiveness, healing, meaning, relationship and love – offering quite simply life!

The message of Christmas is that eternity has broken into this world of ours and offered us eternal life. To know that Jesus loves us, and that the family of the Church supports us, helps us to face our worst fears. And however, bad it looks, however bad it gets, remember:
God cares, He is still there, and Life goes on

And even when we die, we know through the Resurrection of Jesus that
God cares, He is still there, and Life goes on

If we look to Jesus and follow Him, our future is secure – For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared to the glory which shall be revealed to us (Romans 8.18).

In this period of Advent, as we prepare for Christmas, why don’t we focus on what is important – not the value of the presents we give and receive, not how much we eat and drink, but the value we put on people – on friends, on family, on what we do for others & what we let others do for us; on our relationships – to love and be loved, to care and be cared for, to help and be helped.

And let’s give thanks. We have much to give thanks for – and particularly at this time, let’s give thanks for God’s gift to us of Himself – Jesus Christ. Because of Jesus our future is secure. In this world we will have troubles, but be of good cheer, for Jesus has overcome the world and in Him, we can have peace (John 16.33).

Whatever your personal circumstances, whatever your troubles, I pray that you may know the presence and comfort of God this Christmas; that you may have real joy and peace; and hope, not just for the new year, but for eternity, Amen