Summary: The real reason for the season. Is it really to be with the family and if so, which one?

We will return to our homes tonight after this service where we welcome the Immanuel into our lives. The majority of us will return satisfied in the knowledge that our homes are warm and for some there will be the last minute items that require our attention, but all in all, everything is done and we will be able to smile that enigmatic smile of satisfaction. We may even allow ourselves a sigh of relief and be proud of what we have achieved, despite the earlier chaos and frantic running around.

Our focus tomorrow morning will be with our kids or grandkids and watching with glee as they open the gifts they received from Santa or his many millions of helpers throughout the world. Yes, we will be content in the knowledge that we have done everything that we can to make this possibly the ‘Christmas of all Christmases to remember.’ Those with new born babies within the family will be particularly overjoyed as this is the first Christmas with baby and the joy of having a new born child in the house outweighs the chaos that these tiny infants will bring in the future!

We view Christmas as a time for family, a time to be together, and a time to share in the life and the love of our families. We will be immersed in the pleasure, watching the children opening their gifts, ripping off the paper, which we so lovingly and painstakingly took time with. Never mind – that’s what it’s all about, being with the family, Christmas is time for the children after all. That’s what so many people tell me at this time of year, ‘Christmas is for the weans’ (Scots slang for children).

We hear it from the Christian, we hear it from the Jew, we hear it from the Atheist, “Christmas is time for the weans, it’s about being with family.” Indeed this Christmas Day, along with millions of others across the world, we will share in our family traditions, we will share in the giving and exchanging of gifts and then we will sit down to enjoy what has become the main event of Christmas, the meal. It will typically be Turkey and all the trimmings and thankfully the fridge will be stocked up with goodies to entice us between meals, our coolers will be laden with cans and the sound of ring pulls will outweigh the sound of bells, there may even be a bottle or two or white chilling, with our names on it!

It’s no wonder we can afford to allow ourselves a sigh or slight smile, after all, we’ve geared up for this big day for so long. Our shops have been stocking Christmas goodies since mid August and now we are ready to enjoy the festive season proper. How proud we must all feel, how satisfied that we have more or less everything in order. The only concern for those of us, who haven’t yet cooked the bird, is that we don’t burn it to a cinder, undercook it or that disaster strikes with oven failure. Our priorities are presents, food, television and saying goodnight that is if we are still able after the cans and bottles of white!

As for the religious side of the season, we’ll we’ve done our bit, we’ve came along year round to Church or for those of us who only a do an annual visit to church on this night, the deed is done and we can get on with it tomorrow, we can enjoy ourselves and forget the rest.

Earlier the Atheist was mentioned, for they too will celebrate Christmas with the tree, turkey, trimmings and gifts. They will go from home to home, share in family times and they will also find much joy in our season of welcoming God with us, Immanuel! The sad truth is there is very little difference sometimes between the Atheist and the Christian. After all both view it with slightly different take, but still each make the claim “It’s time to be with the family.” Which family?

If we are totally honest, during the hustle and bustle, the biz of Christmas day, we will not think about the Holy family, this is the nearest we will get to it, tonight at our Watchnight service. We will not think of the nativity story, we’ve done it tonight, the religious part out of the way and put back into a box like the decorations until next year. If only it were so easy!

It’s a sad statement to make that the atheist and Christian have something in common but they do! The many atheists that I know, will take part in our traditions and rituals and for them, Christmas is about getting something and staging an event, but otherwise it has no real meaning or significance to them. The truth is it is very much the same for us!

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