And we are off! The non-stop, edge of your seat run towards Christmas and beyond. Have you started the Christmas cake? Made your list of gifts? Worked out who is coming for food and when (hoping for no restrictions)? Have you bought the booze (preferably red) and the presents for the baby (always buy a size up)? Is the Playstation 9 pre-ordered or will you be queuing on Deansgate at 4am on a bitterly cold Saturday morning? Are you confident that this year you won’t be trawling around supermarket garages at 11:50PM on Christmas Eve looking for that last thing you’ve forgotten “do you sell stuffing? And bacon? And a selection of cheeses?” Have you prepped your itinerary? Worked out whether this year you are visiting auntie Sharon or if auntie Sharon is visiting you? Have you decided if you are going to a service this year, to sing some carols or go to the one with the orange, the sticks and the candle (don’t forget the sweets)? Have you steeled yourself for the moment two days before Christmas when you see all the presents you’ve just bought advertised at half-price in the new, “Mega-Pre-Post Christmas Sale Sale”? Are you ready?
I don’t know about you but I’m exhausted just thinking about all that. The cost. The busyness. The expectations. It’s easy to forget the joy at the centre of it. Because there is joy at the centre. There’s a baby, wrapped in swaddling cloths and placed in a manger. A baby that grows up to be an adult who tells us we are loved. Who tells us to come to him when the burdens are too much. Who tells us there is a hope. Whatever Christmas throws at us this year, let’s keep our eyes open for the baby.