Are you ready for Christmas? This year I am early. I have finished my Christmas shopping and wrapped all the presents. I have filled stockings for my children (aged 25 and 28). I have decorated the Christmas tree. My wife has ordered the turkey and baked the Christmas cake.
At various times over the holiday we shall have visits from all four children and all five grandchildren. We shall visit my mother and my father-in-law and see all my siblings.
I doubt it will snow. It seldom does in Bournemouth. I hope it will be crisp and sunny - if not it will be warm, wet and windy. That's how the weather alternates in this part of the world.
I have seen an argument that Jesus Christ was born on 25th September in 6BC. It is calculated on when Zechariah, the father of John the Baptist, took his turn in serving in the Temple and the fact that Herod the Great died in 4BC. The early church was given to syncretism and simply adopted a pagan midwinter festival.
I used to scoff at the artifice of Christmas. Jolly old Santa has escaped from a Coca-Cola advert. The Christmas tree was instituted by Prince Albert. Christmas Cards were simply a piece of Victorian public relations. Oliver Cromwell abolished Christmas as a pagan rite.
But now I realise that Christmas is very special. It may be sentimental but so what? The 25th of December is not the date of Christ's birthday, but as a symbol it is very powerful. It is the darkest time of the year when the night is longest. As the Bible says, "... at just the right time ... while we were still in our sin God sent his son".
This is my Christmas Carol. It may be sung to the tune of the "Ode to Joy" from Beethoven's 9th symphony.
In the silence and the stillness
Of a dark Judean Dawn
In a moment; in a manger
God is as a baby born.
See him stoop from heavenly splendour
See him set his glory by.
God the maker of the mountains
Born a man; for men to die.
In the counsel of the Godhead
Was conceived a mighty plan.
In his justice, in his mercy,
God should die instead of Man.
O what grace, what condescension!
Through the world his great love tell!
Born a baby, born to save us,
Jesus our Immanuel.
See how shepherds come and worship!
Wise men gather from afar,
Angels fill the sky with brightness
Far outshining moon or star.
Let the whole creation praise him!
Loud with adoration sing!
Worship now our wondrous saviour,
Jesus our redeemer king.