December 19th Christmas is just around the corner
This morning it is crisp and cold. The sky is pale blue, with white streaks of cloud meandering way up high, like tattered curtains. Everything is still, there is no breeze to stir the last few leaves still clinging to the old oak tree.
Through the frosty air comes the sound of birds chattering excitedly. Do they know that Christmas is coming? Do they feel a tremor of hope in the air?
December 20th Christmas is drawing nearer
This morning the sky is no longer clear blue, but soft grey. It is chill and damp, and the bushes and plants are laden with water droplets. The air is still. Smoke from the chimney drifts and lazily oozes down the sloping roof. It is quiet, and even the birds are silent. It is as if the world is waiting, holding it’s breath. As if something incredible is just about to happen.
In Nazareth Mary and Joseph are preparing for a long journey. They have to go to Bethlehem to register for the census. It’s not a good time to travel, as Mary is expecting her baby very soon. The donkey is ready, food packed, and a few simple baby clothes carefully stowed away, just in case.
December 21st The shortest day of the year
Today is the winter solstice. The sun is low in the sky, and it is the first official day of winter. It is a day stuck between dark and light, on the knife-edge between the seasons. This week, each afternoon has been cut shorter than the one before, by an ever earlier dusk. Sometimes there has been a flurry of sunset red and gold, but fading quickly into long black night. Today maybe the shortest day, but the hope of longer days dawns tomorrow, albeit very slight at first. The see-saw has fallen, light will have won again; for a time.
But still we hold our breath and wait, for an everlasting light. We have carefully hung our decorations, hoping that a few strings of twinkling Christmas lights will lessen the gloom. For soon we will welcome the Light of the World, who seeks to take away the darkness within us all, forever.
December 22nd On the way
Mary and Joseph are well on their way. The path is rocky, and there is still a long way to go. The roads are very busy, busier than usual. And the towns and villages are bustling with people, all travelling to their home towns for the census.
December 23rd Getting closer
Christmas preparations have stepped up a gear, the day is fast approaching. Most of the presents are wrapped, the cards are written and sent. The shopping is done, and too much food is tightly packed away in the fridge and freezer. Family would usually have been on their way by now, through the festive traffic jams. But this year the roads are strangely empty. Plans have been changed, or cancelled, almost at the last minute, hearts are heavy, faces sad.
Far far away in the East some oriental gentlemen have been looking up excitedly at the new star in the night sky. After checking their ancient writings, they have decided to saddle up their camels and follow the star in search of the new king it proclaims.
December 24th Nearly there
It’s Christmas Eve, the presents are piled around the tree, and it’s too late now to send any more cards. Carols are playing in the background, and there is a smell of mulled wind coming from the kitchen. We’re all trying to make the best of it.
“We’re nearly there. Time for bed you children. Santa will still be coming, and he’ll be wanting his sherry and mince-pie, so we’ve left it on out on the table. So off to bed now, and listen out for the reindeer. Oh, and no peeking till morning.”
“We’re nearly there Mary. I can see the lights of Bethlehem up ahead.”
“Hurry up Joseph, I think I can feel the baby coming.”
“Hold on a little longer Mary. There’s no room at the inn, but I’m told there’s a stable around the back.”
“Are you nearly ready, Gabriel? Are the angel choirs assembled? Are their trumpets tuned? Are they ready to tell the shepherds the minute the baby arrives?”
“Are you nearly there Wise-men from the East, bringing your gifts?”
“No. A long way to go yet, I think we may be a little late.”
Wait through the night. It may be dark, but morning will soon be here.
December 25th Perfect timings
It’s Christmas morning, and as usual things don’t always go to plan. Even in normal years the turkey can take longer than expected to cook, and the Christmas pudding can flame too high! But this year in particular, everything has been very different.
But God’s timings are always perfect.
The star hovers over Bethlehem, and there is the sound of a baby crying, Mary and Joseph found the stable just in time. The angels filled the sky with their songs, and the shepherds were suitably amazed and rushed straight off to see the baby.
The Wise-men, however, are still en route from the East, but that’s how it was planned to be, we always knew they would be late – they’ve had a long way to come!
December 26th A new beginning
And so the stage has been set, the cast assembled, and the baby born. God’s preparations were impeccable, everything happened at just the right time. And now we watch and wait, because through the birth, and through the life and death of this baby, God is changing the world, one person at a time.
And this Christmas especially, may God shine his light into your darkness, and may He give you peace.