Wishing you a very full Christmas
You're probably more used to being wished a 'merry' Christmas, but bear with me a while and let me explain this rather different greeting; it may not mean quite what you think. The festive season is often a mixture of 'fullness' and 'emptiness': a diary crammed full of Christmas parties and visits to family and friends; empty wallets and purses once the presents have been bought; full stomachs after Christmas dinner and drinks; and empty boxes and packaging after the frenzy of unwrapping the gifts. I'm not, however, referring to any of these.
A bit closer to the mark might be the emotions that the Christmas period seems to make more poignant. Early in the year one of my sisters gave birth to a little boy, and as a family we'll be enjoying his first Christmas with him. As Chaplain at Queen's Court, however, I've also been alongside those who are mourning; those who will be experiencing the first Christmas without their loved ones. For many of us, this time of year can be a combination of both joy and sorrow, both fullness and emptiness.
I don't know whether you watched the three episodes of the 'Big Silence'on BBC2 last month -it followed five people and their experience of an eight day silent retreat at a Jesuit monastery. They all found that as the external noise was removed, an internal 'noise'became louder and louder. Feelings of emptiness, caused by grief or guilt or something else that had been kept hidden away for years, came to the surface. One phrase, used by one of the monks to describe this experience, particularly struck me - he talked about the difference between an 'empty emptiness'and a 'full emptiness'. In the gospel of John we read that Jesus came to give us life 'to the full', and it's this 'fullness'that I think the monk was referring to. An experience, whether positive or negative, may either be 'full'of significance for us, or 'empty'of any real meaning or purpose.
Christmas can be one such experience which, with all our busy-ness, can quickly pass us by without it really 'touching'us. One of the names given to Jesus in the Bible is 'Emmanuel'which means 'God with us', and I believe Christmas can be a 'fuller'experience if we invite the one whose birth we're celebrating to be part of it all. By taking the time to attend a Christmas service, or just by finding some quiet space to reflect and pray, we can be filled with His comfort and strength as a help in the challenges that this time of year might bring, as well as being able to find greater appreciation for all of the good things that will come our way over the festive period.
So, once again, may I wish you a very 'full'Christmas.