A thought from the Bishop of Salisbury, Nicholas Holtam
There are many ways of telling the Christmas stories. The first group of youngsters I ever prepared for Confirmation weren’t much good at reading, so the Bible was difficult for them.
Instead, we went to The National Gallery to look at two paintings of the Nativity. One was of shepherds and the baby Jesus with Mary and Joseph in a stable.
It was Luke’s Gospel. The birth of Jesus was for ordinary people and the first to be told about it were not the good religious people of Bethlehem but shepherds from the hillside who went to worship.
The other painting was of Magi, wise men looking like Kings, with their gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. This was Matthew’s Gospel. The birth of Jesus was for all the nations. The child is King and God and his death will not be the last word.
The kids got it and saw how the Gospels each describe Jesus differently.
The stories of his birth are like the introduction to any good book that gives us the eyes and ears for what follows.
Some ways of telling the Christmas story are better than others. Commercial Christmas, with its ‘Glory to God in the High Street’, is limited.
So is the family Christmas that depends on parents spending lots on the children trying to create the perfect Christmas.
It never works. Christmas is to be celebrated but it can’t be consumed.
Carol singers and school nativity plays, church services and community festivals, looking after those in need all tell the tale so it catches hold of us. Love came down at Christmas and the birth of Jesus renews our hopes for the peace of the whole world.