For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.
A few years ago, not long after becoming a Christian, I stood staring at the nativity scene in Birmingham City Centre. The scene was what you’d normally expect, with one exception – the figure of the baby Jesus had been stolen, to be replaced with a garden gnome! As controversial as this may sound, the absence of Jesus made me reflect on my own journey in coming to experience the truth of today’s passage.
Growing up, Christmas was always a magical time of year; full of wonder and excitement. There always seemed to be “something in the air” at this time of year; something I couldn’t quite explain but that always felt special and deeply comforting. As I grew older, I remember that feeling gradually disappearing. I still loved Christmas, but something was missing.
I grew up in a Christian home, so I knew the story of Jesus, but I never attributed all of the “religious stuff” to what truly made Christmas special. By my early teens I’d stopped going to church with my parents and by my early twenties I had vowed that I’d never become a Christian. I didn’t think they liked me, and I certainly didn’t like them! By my late twenties, I was still very much anti-Christian, but I had begun to miss the “spark”, not just in Christmas, but in my life in general. After seeking the “more” in life in many other places, I slowly began to consider Jesus, and in early 2009 I did what I had vowed never to do and made the decision to trust Jesus and ask him into my life.
I still vividly remember that first Christmas as a Christian – I was so excited! What I remember most is waking up on Christmas morning, and there it was! The “something in the air” was back; the something I’d been longing to find again for over 15 years. I realised then and there that what I’d been missing; the reason Christmas had felt so increasingly “empty” with each passing year, is that, just like the Birmingham nativity scene, Jesus had been missing from my Christmas story. While I had always been aware of Jesus, the difference, as John writes in his gospel, was choosing to believe in him. It was the best decision I’ve ever made.
Born and raised in Birmingham, Stephen Worthington moved to West Sussex in 2014 to join the staff team at Holmsted Manor – part of Youth With A Mission, where he enjoys working out his passion for community, discipleship and helping others realise their God-given potential. Stephen’s greatest loves, other than Jesus, are good food, good conversation, and enjoying his ever-expanding board game collection with whoever will play!
How central is Christ to your Christmas this year? Has Christmas lost some of its wonder for you? If so, could the two be related, as they were with me? As you make preparations for the big day, whether you consider yourself to be a Christian or not, take some time out to think about how you would answer these questions.