I WONDER what makes Christmas special for you?
The lights on the Christmas tree?
Seeing your extended family? The thoughtfulness of those who have bought you presents, perhaps?
During the past few weeks, the Church of England has produced several short films of various people talking about their moments of joy at Christmas.
It’s about the event or the activity that for them really marks Christmas and brings to life the feelings, the joy and the emotions of this time of year.
You can see all those videos for yourself – and check out your nearest carol services – at achristmasnearyou.org.
The moment of joy that really brings Christmas to life for me each year is the Christmas Eve midnight communion service.
There is the sense of gathering in the dark at a time I’d normally be safely tucked up in bed.
A growing expectancy of a church full of people waiting for the clock to strike midnight, the final candle on the advent wreath to be lit, and the joyous declaration that ‘Jesus is born! Christmas has come!’.
It’s worth staying up late to mark the special day when we remember how Jesus was born as a fragile baby – and ultimately became the saviour of the world.
As archdeacon, I have the privilege of leading services in different churches across Gosport, Fareham, and up the Meon Valley to Petersfield .
And so in the six Christmases since I started in this post, I have had the joy of celebrating the arrival of Christmas in settings as diverse as the tiny St Nicholas Church, Boarhunt, the majestic All Saints Church, East Meon, and – surely the highlight of any Christmas – St Mary’s Church, Portchester, the only parish church in England that I know of that is inside a magnificent castle!
This Christmas Eve, I will be at St Paul’s Church, Sarisbury Green.
I know that as I join with the congregation in singing, my heart will be lifted and it will indeed feel as if we are joining with the choir of angels, as together we sing, Hark, the herald angels sing, glory to the new-born King.
Whatever your own Christmas traditions may be, and whatever this Christmas holds for you, I pray that you experience moments of joy this Christmas, as together we celebrate the joy of Christmas, that Jesus, born in the stable in Bethlehem, is Emmanuel – God with us.
I wish you a very happy and joy-filled Christmas.
n The Archdeacon supports parishes in Gosport, Fareham, Bishop’s Waltham and Petersfield.