At St. Stephen’s we are planning our services to celebrate Christmas and the New Year and looking forward to this joyful time. We try to provide a whole variety of services where different ages can come together to celebrate the birth of Jesus: Sing-along Carols (22nd December at 6pm), Christingle Services (Christmas Eve at 3pm and 5pm), a new service for this year - the First Mass of Christmas (Christmas Eve at 7.30pm), and of course, the Christmas Day services. You are welcome to come and celebrate with us.
We are all invited to ‘come in’ to greet the holy child, born into the very humble surroundings of a stable - those words ‘and Mary laid him in a manger because there was no room at the inn’ seem an unusual start for a baby who is God’s son.
I love this story - in 2008 Travelodge operations director, Jason Cotta, said, 'The phrase "no room at the inn" is something that resonates with us in the hotel business. Therefore, this year we have decided to evoke the true spirit of Christmas and invite Mary and Joseph couples as our guests. Travelodge offered any couples named Mary and Joseph, who registered on-line and produced proof of their names, a one-night stay, free of charge, at any Travelodge hotel from Christmas eve to twelfth night.
The Travelodge’s generosity (or was it a publicity stunt!) that particular Christmas is a small reminder of the way God welcomes each and every one of us. God does not want anyone to be turned away, because He loves each of us so much. We see the depth of that love in God's unique gift to us of his son Jesus, born as one of us, part of a loving human family; the one who was willing ultimately to give his life for us, so that we might share in his life, for ever.
We anticipate the celebration of Jesus’ birth, not only because it is a great excuse for a party, but also because His birth gives us hope. Hope for the future. Hope in the midst of all the problems and discouragements that surround us. Our Christmas celebrations lead into celebrations of the New Year, with a heightened sense of anticipation for all that it might bring.
On January 1st at 10.30am we will celebrate the New Year, praying that 2020 will be a time of harmony and understanding. I know that for some people New Year brings a deep sense of anxiety and uncertainty but we can trust the wonderful promise which Jesus made to us: ‘remember that I am with you always; yes, to the end of time’ (Matthew 28, verse 20). Jesus promises to be there with us in whatever it is that life brings; in the happy times and in the sadnesses; in the joy but also in the pain.
At Christmas, God welcomes us all to celebrate the birth of His Son, the one who brings hope to the world. God invites us to come in because He has made sure that there is room for us all.
I wish you all a very HAPPY and HOLY CHRISTMAS and a peaceful New Year.
Blessings - Jan
- Revd. Jan Ashton
Vicar of Hightown, Liverpool