‘When are we getting our tree up?’ I’ve heard this anguished plea innumerable times over the past couple of weeks and the general response has been, ‘Soon.’ Usually, the beginning of December heralds the arrival (or rather, movement from attic to living space) of our decorations and it’s a process I really enjoy. This year though, it’s been a struggle. I can’t explain why, it just hasn’t felt like it’s been the right time/ that I’ve had the time/ that I’ve wanted to make the time – I suppose moreso the latter, if I’m honest.
But, that doesn’t mean I haven’t been making preparations for Christmas and, if you follow along here, you’ll know we’ve been focusing on the season of Advent, but little else has changed. Our eldest has had pre-Christmas exams for the first time, we’ve been busy and there have been coughs and sneezes to contend with. My decorating stalemate could be as a result of one, all or indeed, none of these. Whatever has been the cause, I should at least be on my way to making ammends with my restless natives, as this morning, the decorations came out! (They’re still very much in their boxes awaiting placement, but at least it’s a start and, I’ve abandoned them in such a way that if any of us want to actually find our way to bed tonight, I’ll have to get them sorted. Well, that or we check into a hotel – could be a close call!!)
As I was hauling the boxes out, moving a step closer to the impending decoarting spree, it got me thinking about the place we call home right now. I don’t mean the acutal house we live in, but rather ‘our wee country’ as we tend to call it. It breaks my heart to watch the situation we find ourselves in at the minute: because some of us can’t get exactly what we want, none of us get to move forward.
Looking at the boxes of decorations piled up (is it possible they have bred since last year?!) it dawned on me, that the meaning and reality of Christmas – one of the main celebrations of the Christian faith – is not tied up in whether or not I get my decorations up (holding on to my own sanity and keeping my children happy may well be, though ;o)). My faith is not dependent on having the right decorations, or indeed on having them on view. My faith is tied to the Gift of Christmas, the One who came to offer a salvation that we could never achieve on our own or, hope to find on earth without Him.
This got me thinking about the state of our country at the minute too. I fill in a nationality on forms when I’m asked to and I’ve been brought up to understand that my nationality has certain affiliations and expectations. I think it would be very unusual to have been brought up understanding nationality without also understanding that we do not all share the same one, no matter how small this ‘wee country’ is. And, as a result of that (controverisal opinon warning) there is inevitably a sense of ‘us’ and ‘them’ that permeates much of our society. We can claim to have strong views and opinions, moral standpoints and a sense of right and wrong, but so much of what holds us back from moving forward, is, if we strip it right back, that sense of ‘us’ and ‘them’ and how any decisions made will alter the balance – who will have the most power and what will that mean for the rest?
Looking around at a world, a nation and, dare I say it, a ‘wee country’ that is increasingly turning away from God and Christianity, can we really claim that our sense of national pride is all about strong Christian beliefs and that our main aim is to maintain those? I think the time when God was at the centre of what this country – ‘wee’ or otherwise – stands for, is long gone, if we are brutally honest.
Much like my decorations don’t affect what Christmas means to me, so too, I am becoming increasingly aware of how little my national identiy really matters in the grand scheme of eternity. You see, as Christians, we believe that our identity is not of this world, that this is not our final home and while things may happen around us that cause uncertainty, or decisions are made that we really don’t like; when the politicians give us reason to scream in frustration or to celebrate in delight, what we need to remember above all else, is that this world is not our home. In 1st Peter 2 verse 11, Christians are reminded that they are ‘aliens and strangers’ here – just passing through on the way to an eternal destination.
Whatever we are asked on the day of judgement, I don’t believe that we will need to show a passport or declare a national identity. Heaven isn’t about ‘us’ and ‘them’ but rather, about what God did for everyone in sending Jesus to be the Saviour of the world – not for us or them, but for all. In the story of Jonah, we see his frutration that God would send him to witness to a place that he felt did not deserve God’s grace. But God reminded him, as He does us, that none of us is deserving, yet, still Jesus came.
I don’t know what will happen politically (or in any other way for that matter) in this wee land or in the rest of the world. The only thing I do know for sure is that God has a plan and while we may not be able to make any sense of it right now, as Christians we need to remember that whatever uncertainty we are faced with, He is on the throne, He had a rescue plan prepared when Jesus came to earth that first Christmas and He has not forgotten about us – as Isaiah 49 verse 16 reminds us, He has ‘engraved you on the palms’ of the hands that hold us.
Don’t lose heart, don’t lose hope. We may feel at odds with the world right now, but as Christmas appraoches, we are reminded not only of the love of God and the presence of God, but also of the peace He offers and John 16 verse 33 tells us: “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”
Whether or not the decorations are up, Christmas will not be stop being Christmas – God sent His Son with a rescue mission to carry out on which my decorations had no bearing. Whatever my passport says, my eternal identity will not change – it is fixed in God and His gift of grace. Whatever politicians or leaders may decide, there is One more powerful than they and, as Revelation 1 tells us, His message is clear: ‘Do not be afraid. I am the First and the Last.’ His word is final – no matter what our policitians may think, the final word will not be spoken from a finite human being, but by a God who is ‘infinte, eternal and unchangeable.’ So don’t fear the future, but instead, trust it to the One who holds it, and us, in His hands.