This is the text from a Christmas message I wrote which is going out in a local newsletter this week:
Be part of something bigger.
I think it’s fair to say that the summer of 2012 was a quite extraordinary one for Britain. We celebrated once-in-a-lifetime events when the eyes of the world were on us. The Olympics saw the world come to us. I was fortunate enough to visit three Olympic venues and the atmosphere at each and at the Olympic Park was amazing. Beforehand there were some doubts about whether we could put on such an event, but with hindsight I’m sure we can agree that the Olympic Committee did brilliantly.
Did you notice also that for the two weeks of competition, the whole country seemed to have a lift? The pre-Olympic English reserve and cynicism over whether we could pull it off was transformed into more a positive and optimistic outlook as the well-run games and British sporting success made us feel a part of something bigger than ourselves. Our ordinary lives were invaded by the Olympic spirit. The Olympics came to us and we were, albeit briefly, changed.
Christmas often carries the same type of cynicism, at least for adults, as was present before the Olympics. We feel obligated to spend time with family and to spend money on often under-appreciated gifts. Thoughts of God are often distant and we may feel that God himself is distant.
But the heart of the Christmas message is exactly the opposite. Although he never forces himself on anyone, God is not distant. He has come to us in the birth of Jesus. The angels referred to Jesus as ‘Immanuel’ which means “God with us”. The God of the universe appeared in the earthy ordinariness of everyday life and many ordinary, non-religious people had their perspectives and situations transformed as they encountered him. The good news is that this Godly encounter and transformation is still possible today. He enables us to become the people he made us to be and to be a part of something bigger and longer lasting than any Olympic legacy.
May you know the peace of God’s presence as you celebrate Christmas this year!