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Christmas reflections

To provide a contrast to the typical British Christmas by looking at how it is observed across the world. To focus attention on four aspects of Christmas: Rest, Reflect, Rejoice and Resolution.

by Vicky Scott

Suitable for Whole School (Sec)

Aims

To provide a contrast to the typical British Christmas by looking at how it is observed across the world. To focus attention on four aspects of Christmas: Rest, Reflect, Rejoice and Resolution.

Preparation and materials

  • Prepare the words of the carol (see point 1.).
  • Print out the 4 R words: Rest, Reflect, Rejoice and Resolution.

Assembly

  1. Choose a Christmas carol such as ‘Hark the herald angels sing’. Split the words into small groups, and print them in large writing on pieces of paper. These are distributed to a number of volunteers and they work together to form the correct order for the words of the song. This could be a one-off event, or to create excitement, perhaps print the words out twice and get two groups to compete. For a more quiet, controlled game you could blindfold the students holding the words and choose one particular student to arrange them in the correct order for the song.
  2. Ask the students to provide you with a brief description of their average Christmas Day: when gifts are given, what time the main meal is eaten, what this consists of, is anything left out for Father Christmas, etc. Compare the answers and then highlight especially where they differ. Perhaps some celebrate more on Christmas Eve; some might eat goose while others have chicken or lamb. What about the vegetarians? Stress the joy of individuals and families expressing themselves differently.
  3. Even though Christmas was originally marked in the calendar as the day to remember the birth of Jesus, it is now celebrated by more than just Christians. Millions of people across the world use this festival as a time of celebration. Christians consider that this important day represents the birth of their saviour, Jesus. They believe that his coming to the earth, to live as a human, is the only reason that they are able to forge an intimate relationship with God and is thus very important for them. However, many people, even without religious convictions, still celebrate this day as a cultural festival. They perceive it as a time to give presents, eat and drink, as well as meeting up with their family.
  4. Christians and people of other faiths, or with no religious conviction, adhere to the traditions of their country at Christmas. The Australians celebrate Christmas Day on the 25th, in a similar fashion to us in the UK (except that it’s summer there). In the Philippines they celebrate their Christmas meal after Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve. They eat a traditional meal that consists of cheese, hot chocolate and ham, while opening their gifts, in the early hours of 25 December. In Mexico gifts are not given on Christmas Day, but instead on 6 January, which they believe ties in with the time that the wise men traditionally presented their gifts to baby Jesus. In some French-speaking areas of Canada Christmas is celebrated on 26 December. In Brazil Christmas Eve is the more important day, especially around the time of midnight. In various locations across Europe, such as the Czech Republic, Poland, Slovakia, Austria, Hungary and Germany, celebrations are also focused around Christmas Eve, as opposed to Christmas Day. In some of these places people choose to fast the whole day, so as to appreciate the feast in the evening. They typically eat fish, soups and potatoes at their meal as well as distributing gifts at this time.
  5. The festival of Christmas is celebrated almost everywhere across the world, even if it has to be unofficially in some countries. There are various common elements, such as a shared special meal, the company of friends and family as well as the circulation of gifts.

Time for reflection

Let’s think about the way that we can use this festival to grow as people spiritually, as well as around the middle! I’m going to think about four words, all beginning with R.

Rest: Time off from school/work and time to spend with family and friends.

In the Christmas story, Mary and Joseph were very tired from their long journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem and longed to find a place to rest their weary bodies. There were no five-star hotels for the birth of a global superstar – Jesus – but a rather humble and smelly cattle shed. Jesus came to offer peace for our hearts, which are so often restless with the worries and distractions that we live with. Try to remember that Christmas time is not always about receiving but also giving. A simple act as offering to peel the carrots or do some of the washing up may really help and bless the adult preparing the rather stressful Christmas dinner.

Reflect: Use this time off to consider the past and look forward to the future.

Once Mary had given birth to her son, Jesus, she was amazed by the visitation of the shepherds and their proclamation concerning her son’s life. Each of us will have heard various people’s thoughts concerning our lives. Some may have experienced numerous positive and negative predictions about how we will develop and succeed or fail in the future. However, it is really our thoughts and actions that will map out the path we will individually walk. Use this Christmas time to think about how you have developed and grown over the past year. Have you had a positive year and can you see your life going in the right direction next year? Or has your year consisted of pain and disappointment? Whichever it is, think about what you can do to make the next year better. Who can you go to for help to alter the areas you’re struggling in and what can you do differently next time?

Rejoice

In the Christmas story, Jesus was visited by many people. When the wise men arrived they bowed down and worshipped him and presented him with gifts. The shepherds, who had been visited by angels announcing the birth of Jesus, were also filled with joy and praised God.

At Christmas time Christians are thankful for the birth of Jesus. Yet even if you don’t adhere to this belief, we all have things to be thankful for, whether they are individuals in our lives, specific possessions or opportunities presented to us. Why not be thankful for all you have and focus upon the blessings in your life – your loved ones, your gifts, your talents, your friends. Love is stronger than hate. Light is stronger than darkness. The message of Jesus’ amazing birth, life, death and resurrection show this to be true, no matter how dark the world can sometimes appear to be.

Resolution

At the time of Jesus’ birth some of the most isolated and undervalued people in society would have been shepherds. It is even more amazing then that they should be one of the elect parties who are called to visit Jesus their future King! The lives of those shepherds would have been changed for ever. They must have resolved to believe that God is interested in ordinary people. We can learn from this that God loves and values all kinds of people – rich and poor, tall and short, men and women, celebrities and ordinary working people.

Contemplate what you might wish will be different this coming year. How can you realistically bring about increased happiness to yourself and others? Think about a resolution and perhaps write it down later: something that you would like to do differently this next year. It is important to be realistic and not make a pledge that you will never achieve and therefore simply feel disappointed. Little constant steps forward are far better than giant leaps forward and then backwards.

Christmas represents various different things for people across the world. It started from a day of celebration for Christians, that they could once again be in relationship with Jesus, but has become a day of celebration of life and blessing for many religious beliefs worldwide. Whichever applies for you, make sure that you use the time to enjoy your holiday, while at the same time making it enjoyable for those around you!

 

Prayer

Dear Father,

Thank you, God, for the gift of your Son Jesus.

Thank you for his life and death and the bridge of reunion that he built between the two of us.

Help us to be a blessing as well as blessed this Christmas time.

Amen.

Music

Listen to one of the traditional carols.

Publication date: December 2009   (Vol.11 No.12)    Published by SPCK, London, UK.
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