What was your favourite Christmas present as a child?
As a child, presents were never really the main focus of our Christmas celebrations – although my sister and I certainly enjoyed them! The main thing for us was spending time together as a family. Whether that was helping cook the turkey, walking the dog, playing games, or just watching TV in the evening, that family time was key. We occasionally went to church, but for me at that time it was just another tradition – mainly attractive because of the carol singing, and of course the mince pies. I could have quoted from various sermons that “Jesus came to save me from my sins”, but what that actually MEANT, I had no idea!
As an adult, how have your feelings about Christmas changed over the years?
Having become a Christian while at university, Christmas now means so much more to me than it ever did before! Christmas is no longer just one isolated day at the end of each year, but part of something much, much bigger. I had assumed in the past that Jesus Christ only existed for the 33 years he lived on earth – and that was his whole story. I remember being absolutely astonished to learn that he was actually around long before that – the Bible says that he was there since before the creation of the world, as he himself is God! And more than that, he still lives today in heaven, and will one day return to judge the world! This was an enormous revelation to me, and gives Christmas a huge amount of significance. That Jesus, the Son of God, would humble himself to be born as a human being, in order to give us sinful people the possibility of a personal relationship with God, and eternal life after death with him in heaven – still seems unbelievable to me at times. Yet it shouldn’t be a surprise to any of us who enjoy a good carol service! (Something I do a lot of, in my work as a musician!) In addition to many Bible passages which explain this clearly, if we look closely at some of the words we sing in carols time after time, we see that “He came down to earth from heaven, who is God and Lord of all…and he leads his children on, to the place where he has gone”. Likewise, we sing of “Christ the everlasting Lord” and of “God and sinners reconciled”. God’s own reason for Christmas? “Mild he lays his glory by, born that man no more may die!”And the result for the rest of us? “Not in that poor lowly stable with the oxen standing by, we shall see him, but in heaven set at God’s right hand on high. When like stars his children crowned, all in white shall wait around.” (Carol excerpts taken from ‘Once in Royal David’s City’ and ‘Hark the Herald Angels Sing’.)
In a sentence, what does Christmas mean to you?
Christmas is about the past AND the future, not just one day…there is a lot more to Jesus than just the baby in the manger.