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Christmas brings high expectations says Dean

We tend to approach Christmas with high expectations says Rev Dr Peter Doll, Acting Dean of Norwich Cathedral.

The media are always insistent that we must have the ‘perfect Christmas’ – the right food and drink, the right presents, the right decorations, the right music, the right programmes on the telly, and the right people by our sides. Somehow, the holiday season has become a kind of competition in which we demonstrate our ability to direct and control our lives – Christmas has to be a finished product that we can share on TikTok.

Isn’t it strange that the myth of the perfect Christmas resists the reality that it’s been years since we’ve had anything like a ‘normal’ Christmas? And this year is proving no exception as we face hikes in the cost of living and strikes on the transport networks, in the postal services, and even in our medical services. War in the Ukraine drags on. Instability and discontent are rife. Any sense of control over the present and the future is eluding us. How can we celebrate when so much seems to be going so wrong?

Perhaps it helps to put things in perspective to remember that the first Christmas was far from perfect for anyone. Paintings and Christmas cards romanticise the scene, but birth in a stable was no joke for anyone. Joseph and Mary had to travel to Bethlehem to satisfy the demands of an oppressive emperor, and then they had to flee for their lives from Herod, the paranoid local imperial stooge. The Egyptians probably saw the Holy Family much as we now see the refugees coming to our shores.

Even so, the difficulties they faced should not blind us to the great fact of Christmas, the great truth that in the birth of Jesus, God is with us. That is what his other name, Emmanuel, means: God is with us. God became a human being in an obscure outpost of the Roman Empire. He did not come in power and great glory. He came as a humble carpenter and itinerant preacher, and yet his life, death, and resurrection has utterly transformed the world. His teachings even now define our values. His commandment that humans should be judged by their capacity to love remains our ideal.

God is with us and he has promised to be with us forever. However difficult we may find life in our world today, Christmas gives us the best reason to rejoice and give thanks.

May the blessing of the Christ-child be with you and all whom you love, this Christmas and always.

For details of Christmas services at Norwich Cathedral click here.



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