I love Christmas. I love seeing the lights and the decorations. I love the giving and receiving of cards and presents.
I like hearing from distant friends and family. I love seeing the generosity that happens at Christmas.
Above all I love the God of love who is at the heart of Christmas.
I love too that it is a time when we can stop and reflect about life – that is one reason why I think so many people choose to attend some kind of church service around Christmas.
It is great that so many do, and that we take a little time to reflect. So here is part of my reflecting this Christmas; it is all about looking.
Look down. Look down at your shoes. Shoes tell us stories. They can be happy stories, but they might also be hard ones.
A child’s shoes might tell us a story of poverty; the worn out shoes tell the tale of what cannot be afforded.
It is true the world over. No shoes, hardened, calloused, dirt ingrained feet speak volumes about a person’s life and situation.
The new born baby always has beautifully smooth skin, after the initial wrinkling stretches out.
But for how long does it last? When Jesus was born he would have had beautiful skin.
But what were Joseph and Mary’s feet like after their long journey to Bethlehem?
What were Jesus feet like as a man who worked as a carpenter and then walked the land for 3 years? Feet that were nailed to a cross.
Scarred feet that were evidence of his resurrection. Look down at your feet; what story do they tell?
Look Out. Look out at our community; where are the joys and signs of hope? Where are the sorrows and signs of despair?
Look out at our wider world too. As we look out we have to recognise that poverty is a stark reality for many children.
The cupboards are nearly bare of clothing and of food; the latter supplemented by the local foodbank.
The film ‘I, Daniel Blake’ depicted the reality, not a fiction.
Look out and see the world with eyes that are willing to weep, and to smile; with eyes that stir the heart and the mind with compassion, with anger at injustice, and with a will to make a difference.
As we look out this Christmas may we ponder what we, what we together, could do to bring an end to child poverty in our midst, and in the wider world.
Let us give of our time, our talents, our energy and our money to making the world the better place that we all want it to be.
At the heart of Christmas is the story of God looking out on his world and seeing us in all our need.
So he steps in himself and enters human life as a baby. God looks out on the world, his heart is moved, he takes action in the birth of Jesus.
Look Up. If we keep looking down we will trip up. Looking down is often a sign of despondency or despair.
We need to do it to see the feet, to spot the way, but if we are to move ahead we must not keep our eyes there.
If we keep looking out we will see joys and hope but we may also find the world’s struggles and pain too hard to bear.
So look up; look up in hope, with determination to step forward into a world of better things; where poverty is over.
The shepherds looked up when the angels sang; they heard the message of hope.
They ran in their dirty hardened feet to find a babe wrapped in strips of cloth and lying in an animal feeding trough (a manger).
They looked and saw the hope, the light of the world, in the face of a tiny, poor baby.
This Christmas may we join them looking into the face of this child and find him looking up welcoming us and calling us to look down, look out and look up to enable a better world to come.
May you have a truly Happy Christmas, looking down, looking out and looking up.
The Right Reverend Paul Butler
Bishop of Durham