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'Joy to the world...'

In a series of Advent articles, Rosemary Dawson picks up on the words of Christmas songs

Christmas will not be a time of celebration for some people

IT’S party time. With three days to go till the main event, the presents are all wrapped, the sprouts are peeled and the turkey is defrosting outside the back door.

The preparations are almost complete, and excitement is mounting … or is it? Let’s be honest, the reality is often the opposite. Endless traffic jams and super­market queues result in frazzled adults who are also having to cope with children’s high expectations of what they will find under the tree on Christmas morning.

My five-year-old grandson Samuel recently asked his mother what he was get­ting for Christmas. ‘You’ll have to wait and see what Santa brings,’ she replied.

She was quite taken aback when he shouted: ‘You’re lying! Santa doesn’t bring them at all. They’re in your cupboard upstairs!’

Oh dear. A childhood fantasy gone. Goodbye, Santa.

It is also the case that Christmas will not be a time of celebration for some people. It may be their first without the presence of a close family member, partner or friend. They may be living with a terminal illness, the threat of redundancy, money problems or worries about a relationship break-up. They may look at it as just another day to be got through somehow.

It’s all very far from the spirit of the 17th-century carol by Isaac Watts: ‘Joy to the world! The Lord is come/ … Let every heart prepare him room/ And Heaven and nature sing.’

And there’s the crux of the matter. Like past generations, we have, through our obsession with the activities of the season, obliterated the message of joy and hope that Christmas is intended to be.

Remember the angel’s message to the shepherds? ‘I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people’ (Luke 2:10 New International Version).

True joy doesn’t depend on circumstance or keeping people happy at all costs. It comes from accepting the gift God offers us through Jesus – his love, forgiveness and grace.

It’s not too late to accept that gift. Doing so will make this Christmas the most joyful time we could ever hope for.

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