As I get older and enjoy each successive Christmas I seem to get more of an idea of what Christmas is ... and Christmas isn't.
I'm reminded of the story when an angry shopper on Christmas eve had to push past a Salvation Army band playing Christmas Carols, attempting to raise money for the local Children's Hospital. Angrily the shopper remarked to her friend "Can you believe it, they're even trying to bring religion into Christmas now..."
I bought Mike a jacket yesterday, it made me smile to see so many different creeds, colours and persuasions of every imaginable type in Birmingham City Centre. In a hundred yards, I'd probably been within a few feet from folks from every continent. Christmas Carols merged into a Krishna Chorus of devotees, smells of candy floss merged with hot dogs and folks rushed around doing last minute Christmas shopping.
What a shame that Christmas is so far removed from the humble manger - over-priced toys, clothes and food-stuff replace the true meaning of Christmas; the Celebration of the birth of Jesus.
Religion should take a back seat, because religion is a monster that also runs away with the true meaning of Christmas. Never confuse religion with faith. The two are so far removed from each other.
The love and warmth of family, of being with and remembering the ones you love. stopping, pausing and taking time, just to take time with your family, and, even more importantly to me, to remember the most special gift of all: the gift from God is becoming so much more important than too many bottles of wine and a large roast lunch.
Maudlin as it may seem, I couldn't help but look out last night in the cold evening at the driving rain and think of the ever increasing number of folks who would sleep rough over Christmas. My thoughts then turned to the kids in Swaziland and those who have not yet been taken from danger. It seems so awful that life deals some folks a poor hand.
Things can seem depressive, but, a quote from scripture, not exactly on all fours: "Where sin abounds, Grace doth much more abound". It's true, whenever you see something awful, there is always a chink of light, always someone there to help - the good naure of folks is always shown. Here, I have to say, from the bottom of my heart, thank you. To all those folks who gave to the Swazipod appeal, we raised nearly £400 - that's about $700. I'm happy to report that my church raised £7,500 in one day - that means that eight young people won't be sleeping rough next Christmas, they'll be snatched from poverty and misery. The extra money raised will doubtless help with medication and education.
So, sometimes, folks just don't get Christmas, or the sentiment. Clearly, you folks do. Thank you all so much.