I don’t really know where this year has gone, but somehow it is Christmas. I wonder what 2018 has been like for you? If I had to describe 2018 in one word it would be 'change'. What would yours be?
This year the SCM staff team has had three people leave, two people return and three others join the team, which has been both sad and joyful. Within the team, roles have shifted and responsibilities changed - it was during this year that I took on the responsibility of Events Lead, and I have also gone from being the only Regional Worker to being in a team of three which is very exciting! I’ve also moved my office this year as I am now based in the Faith Centre at the University of Salford, and while I was sad to leave St Peter's House and the friends that I had made there, I have come to feel at home in Salford.
And that's just the change happening in my work life, ignoring all the major things that have happened in the rest of my life in these past 12 months. With a significant birthday and a significant death as part of my autumn, there have been joyful celebrations but also some sombre ones.
I'm sure I'm not alone in noticing that the Christmas season is marketed as a time of year when we should be joyful, celebrating with our perfect families, eating amazing food and exchanging expertly wrapped gifts. Adverts (that seem to start as soon as the summer is over) are full of people with huge smiles as they do their Christmas shopping or cooking, and the emphasis is very much on being happy in the build up to the 'Big Day' without a sign of stress. I wonder if anyone truly feels blissfully happy while peeling potatoes and trying to wrap those awkwardly shaped gifts!
My preparation for Christmas started months before Advent when my sign choir started learning Silent Night and Jingle Bells in September, and I was very much ready for Christmas in that I sat and wrapped presents weeks ago and even got round to putting up my tree a whole week before the 25th. However it still feels a bit odd. I’m the sort of person who always gets gleeful about birthdays and celebrations, but this Christmas I’m struggling to find the excitement.
On the third Sunday of Advent I preached about joy being more than just happiness, but how it can also be the way we hold on to inner hope, peace and excitement when they're not obviously there. That God-given joy that yet again Jesus is among us and still each morning is here to journey with us, finding moments of joy with us in times that can be difficult.
Whether your Christmas this year is happy or sad, I pray you may find the joy of Immanuel, Christ with us, this season.
Merry Christmas from the SCM Team.