“So it’s here, merry Christmas!” With its lights and sparkle, time-honoured songs, basically sane people wearing daft headgear, and generally lots of good clean fun, at what might otherwise be one of the gloomier times of year. Don’t knock it. But how will you use yours?

Will it be a time for FORGETTING? You can guarantee that it will be that for some people, at least if the contents of their shopping trolley really get consumed… Just a holiday for drowning the loneliness, insecurity and harshness of ‘real life’ in a few days’ fuzzy haze?

Or, maybe, a time for FRETTING? A festival that we’ve all allowed to get far too complicated and far too expensive – chores galore now, bills galore later? Even (perish the thought) more trouble than it’s worth? Perhaps we need to remind one another that a lot of the frills of Christmas are optional! Do them if you actually enjoy them, otherwise leave a few of them out next year.

Or might it be a time for REMEMBERING?

Really, Christmas without Christ at its centre is like a child’s playroom at bedtime without the child. All that clutter doesn’t make much sense on its own. Why should it? It belongs around the child. Christmas belongs around the totally un-showy miracle of God humbling himself, becoming a human being, entering the ‘real world’ with all its perils and frustrations (see the Gospels), so as to save that world through self-sacrifice and by overcoming death. If that’s the centre of your Christmas, then this is indeed the ultimate season of good cheer, and all the colour, light, warmth, laughter and generosity in the world could never fully do justice to the birth of Jesus, Saviour and King.

Revd. Julian Williams (Nursling & Rownhams)