Our (ikea-purchased) tree is up.

The decorations are out.

The Christmas market on our doorstep has been in full swing for weeks and still making feel all warm and fuzzy despite the lack of parking it creates.

I’ve been given mulled wine at work already (it made me feel horribly sick – I think they spiked it!).

Mince pies have been made and consumed.

My first Christmas (sort-of) movie has been watched (it was While You Were Sleeping – yes it’s a romcom but it takes place at Christmas).

Presents for family were all wrapped last night and are waiitng paitently under the tree.

And said family arrives on the train in four hours for the celebrations to begin.

So I am feeling very Christmassy and happy. And trying to remember within it all why we celebrate. Christmas has become more of a cultural holiday in northern Europe than a religious one. Maybe people go to a carol service at some point over the season, but it’s more about family, food and presents. Which are all good things, but as a Christian, it can be a huge distraction from what I believe is the real thing.

Last Sunday we had our December gathering at church (we meet as a whole church just once a month) and we looked at the story of the angels announcing the news of Jesus’ birth to shepherds. I’ve been studying this for the last month already as I am on the team at church that prepares all the small group teaching for weeks we’re not meeting as a whole church.

I often try and make myself feel better about getting distrated by all the cultural fuss around Christmas by reasoning “well Easter is the more important celebration anyway”.

But this month I was really struck by the realisation that the host of angels appearing and praising God as the news is announced, is unique in the bible. Usually they appear in ones and twos, sometimes threes. And there are a few occassions where there’s a whole bunch of them, but this is the only time that angels appear to a group of humans praising God. It made me realise that I cannot dismiss the importance of this moment. Because the cross may be central to our understanding of grace, but our salvation begins at the incarnation. It began when God chose to be born as a human. It began when we recognise the incredible love behind that moment. It began not with a death but with a new life. This part is vitally important too.

So as the advent conspiracy video says, “it begins with worship”. I’m trying to remember that this advent, even as I tuck into another mince pie :)

(my friend Jeremie took some great photos at church on Sunday… see if you can spot me and my mince pies here)

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