This is a copy of my article in the DECEMBER 2015 edition of the Billericay ‘Around Town Magazine’

I wonder how many of you starred in a Nativity Play when you were a child?  Did you get the chance to play Mary or Joseph or perhaps you weren’t good at acting and were relegated to the back end of the donkey? I can vividly remember being the Inn Keeper … but what I really wanted to be was a Shepherd with a tea towel stuck on my head, clutching a toy lamb and granddad’s walking stick, falling theatrically to the ground with amazement when the Angel of the Lord ‘shone around!’  I can also vividly remember singing the wrong lyrics to a carol at the school Nativity Play: “While shepherds washed their socks by night all watching ITV, the angel of the Lord came down and switched to BBC.”

I wonder if you stopped entering into the Christmas story when you left childhood behind? It’s easy to lose that innocent childlike wonder about the birth of Jesus, isn’t it? And, as you grow older, you no longer see that you have a part to play in the Christmas story – it doesn’t have the same appeal for adults does it? Oh yes, we celebrate with office parties; time off work and family gatherings … but immersing ourselves in the Christmas story? Not anymore! Perhaps you, like so many others, have fallen into the trap of believing that Christmas is only for the children. But the Christmas message is for adults, too, because: “Peace on earth and goodwill to all men” and the gifts of love, joy and hope are some of the best Christmas gifts you could receive in the world … ever!

Can you imagine giving someone a present on Christmas morning this year and they don’t open it?  It would be silly wouldn’t it?  What about if you gave someone a gift and this time next year they still hadn’t opened it! “Why haven’t you opened your present?” You’d ask?  And they respond: “Oh, the paper’s so colourful and it’s wrapped so beautifully, it seems a shame to spoil it. It looks so lovely on the table.  I’ll open it one of these days!”  You’d think they were losing the plot, wouldn’t you?

Many of you have celebrated Christmas for as long as you can remember. You know the carols and the pop songs and the stories inside out – but you’ve never unwrapped the gift to see what the celebration is really all about.

God’s gift of Christmas is worth opening and can be life changing – for adults and children.  The shepherds in the field didn’t end up disappointed after they made the journey to Bethlehem to meet Jesus after he was born. The Bible tells us that: “They returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen …” And that is my hope and prayer for each one of you this Christmas.

Will you make an effort to celebrate and, in your celebration, find time to glorify and praise God for all you will hear and see this Christmas? I invite you to join with us at Emmanuel (or any of the great churches in Billericay) where we have something to suit every age group and every taste – details can be found here

May God’s richest blessing be upon you and your family this festive season and I pray that you will blessed with the spirit of Christmas, which is peace; the gladness of Christmas, which is hope; and the heart of Christmas, which is love.