First of all may I say how much my family and I are looking forward to moving to Marton-in -Cleveland. Though a native Southerner, I have spent much of my working life in the North East, a region of the England that I have come to know and love. I have been invited to write this clergy letter as your Vicar in waiting, and probably also to give Revd Ben, a bit of a well-earned breather.
In our house, Christmas ‘starts’ when the Coca Cola advert is seen for the first time; the one with a convoy
of articulated lorries, displaying the coke logo, appear from the distance and drive on into town. This advert is years old, and ap- pears to have become a tradition in its own right. It portrays an air of expectation, coca cola supplies en route whilst background mu- sic tells us that the ‘holidays are coming’.
We are now inundated with adverts promoting toys, clothes, drink, food and gifts. It can all feel a bit overwhelming, particularly when we consider the sheer volume of what is on offer to us consumers in terms of choice and quantity. Every year the Church tries (hopefully without sounding too Scrooge-like) to encourage local communities to be wary of overindulgence with respect to eating, drinking and spending and to make room and space for Jesus, as the central figure of Christmas, who wishes everyone to know him as a living transformative reality in their lives.
Sensible eating, drinking and spending is one way of course to bet- ter enjoy Christmas; it avoids the onset of hangovers, feeling bloated, and large credit card bills in January. I would like to offer some additional thoughts on securing a merrier Christmas, by allowing Jesus to become more of a reality in our lives. The Apostle Paul wrote to the Christians in Rome and urged them to live honourably, to avoid excessive partying and drunkenness, in order to find and experience something far more beneficial. He urged the Roman Christians instead to clothe themselves with Christ, indeed to ‘put him on’ (Romans 13.14). Jesus need not be a simple seasonal add-on, but one whom we clothe ourselves with so that he becomes part of us; we ‘wear’ him and we become a Christ-like version of him, without losing any sense of our identity and who we are. Paul also wrote to the Christians in Ephesus, and in another warning against excessive drinking, he says ‘do not get drunk with wine….but be filled with the Spirit’ (Ephesians 5.18). Whatever the benefits of partying hard (and they are far outweighed by the negatives), being filled with the Spirit of Christ is life-giving.
The Spirit of Christ heals, cleanses, refreshes and sustains. In John’s Gospel, Jesus referred to himself as ‘The Bread of Life’ and invited his followers to feed on him, to ‘eat the bread of life and live for- ever’ (John 6.35, 58). Jesus
These metaphors of being clothed with Christ, being filled with his Spirit, and eating the bread of life all speak about allowing Jesus to enter into the very fabric of our lives, into our very deepest personal space where we are cloaked in God’s love, refreshed, and nourished. What better Christmas experience than to enjoy all the seasonal fun, food, drink and gifts, but also to to enjoy some- thing of the everlasting joy of God’s gift, his son Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit to make this Christmas better than ever. I wish you all a very Merry Christmas and a blessed New Year.