It’s not long now until the most famous of all birthdays, the coming of God’s son Jesus, into the world.
It is a wonderful time in many ways, but I don’t know whether it has ever struck you that it is the only birthday which happens where the presents are not given to the person whose birthday it is, but those that come to the party….it is someone else’s birthday, but where we receive the gifts which is rather nice!
On the subject of presents, although it is lovely to give and receive them, it is worthwhile remembering that all the things we buy to celebrate (presents, cards, decorations and food) have a lot of unfortunate consequences which we often forget. As I read in a recent article, an incredible extra 3 million tonnes of rubbish, half of which could be re-cycled, but where 90% is actually thrown away to be buried or incinerated:
One billion Christmas cards (about 200,000 trees)
4,200 tonnes of aluminium foil
125,000 tonnes of plastic packaging
80,000 tonnes of textiles
83 square kilometres of wrapping paper!
So, is my message about having an ‘environmentally friendly’ Christmas?
Well in part yes, as it would be good to try to consume less when we few have so much and so many have so little and it would be better for God’s world. However, the most important truth I want to mention, which I think we all know in our hearts is right and good, is that we find more enjoyment in simplicity…enjoying a few simple things with our family and friends. The bible encourages this in various ways:
“Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have.” Hebrews 13v5
“Give me neither poverty nor riches, but only my daily bread.” Proverbs 30v8
“Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 5v3
“It is more blessed to give than to receive.” Acts 20v35
How might we do this in practice?
Well just two examples: maybe we could just buy and give the one or two presents that are really wanted; or maybe aim to shop more locally for what we will need rather than getting everything online. A simpler Christmas will be good in itself for the environment, but also most importantly to free up time and resources for God and those around us whom it is good to love – family, friends and our neighbours.
Finally, as we head into the new year, living simply and finding life in simple things, would I think be not just a good Christmas aim but a great aim for our lives in 2024.
My prayers for a ‘simply’ Happy Christmas and New Year
Revd James – Rector of St Peter’s and Blessed Mary
28th November 2023