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December 2020

December 2020

1 Dec 2020

Last night it was a full moon, very big with a misty presence. It was just like the pictures in story books with that vague outline of a sad face looking down on you.  I remember once staying on a farm in Oldham, five of us in a small caravan. There was a low ridge in view of the barn we’d parked in.  And there it was – an enormous moon with the silhouette of a cow just waiting to “jump over the moon”. Tonight the owls were hooting in the woods behind us and it was a starry night, bright and cold.

I wonder what sort of night it was when Jesus was born? We know that Mary was young and had got pregnant out of wedlock.  We can imagine gossip was rife back home in Nazareth, even though Joseph, inspired by the Holy Spirit, had determined to stand by her. We know that they had travelled 90 miles through at times dangerous countryside, with temperatures around 30 degrees by day and freezing at night, probably carrying most of their food, water and stuff.  We know that in Bethlehem the only place to stay was a stable or cave attached to an inn.  We don’t know whether it was clean or dirty, whether there was straw or animals present. We can guess Mary and Joseph were exhausted, desperate and frightened. We do know that in those lowly conditions Jesus was safely born and survived without the full services of the NHS in Bethlehem.  We do know that it was shepherds who confirmed for Mary that this child was the son of God, and described the huge company of angels announcing his birth in the skies.  It was those irrelevant keepers of sheep, who were generally illiterate, not to be trusted, sometimes thieving, probably smelly and definitely never allowed to testify in court. They reassured, confirmed and encouraged Mary that she was the centre of God’s purposes, even though she was struggling in such dire conditions. Later we read in the story of Jesus’ life that “when he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.” For me that means he really understands and cares who we are and what we feel, and comes alongside to bring healing, comfort and joy into our lives.  Is that enough to celebrate this Christmas?  I think so.

John Bishop