Rev Russell Barr: Community is at the heart of Christmas

The Very Rev Dr Russell Bar is minister at Cramond Kirk
The Very Rev Dr Russell Bar is minister at Cramond Kirk
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As I started planning my Christmas services I wondered if Christmas means different things to different people.

So I wrote to various people in Scottish public life as well as people in my local community asking them to give me a couple of sentences about what Christmas means to them.

Julie runs a coffee and gift shop and she said Christmas means community, everyone helping and supporting each other in the local area, the true spirit of Christmas!

The theme of community was picked up by our MSP.

As well as giving Alex much needed quality time with family and friends, Christmas means a sense of community that doesn’t always exist as people share a sense of anticipation and joy.

Eleanor in the Post Office said Christmas means spending time with her son, family and friends and being thankful for what she has and for what she is able to give.

Helen is head teacher at the local primary school and as well as family time Christmas means taking time to appreciate the things that really matter.

Helen’s sentiments were echoed by the First Minister who said as well as spending time with her family, recharging her batteries and reflecting on what really matters in life, Christmas means having the time to read some good books

Another head teacher told me Christmas means plays and concerts and parties and carols and reports and silly sweaters and services and then time at home with the family in front of the fire.

Doesn’t that sound good?

Rob’s sentiments were echoed by Laura, one of our GPs, whose answer was fun and family

Finding time for family and friends in a busy working life was also highlighted by the Hearts manager, Craig Levein, who told me Christmas means a hectic schedule of football fixtures making Christmas Day with friends and family all the more special, a time for great food and great company.

With Christmas being one of the great festivals of the Christian tradition, the Archbishop of St Andrews and Edinburgh, Leo Cushley, and the Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, Susan Brown, struck a more religious note.

Leo said just as Jesus Christ is the Father’s greatest gift to us, we ought to aspire to be a gift of goodness and love to God and to each other.

Meanwhile Susan said God comes to us as one of us, knows who we are, what we do, what we have to face and chooses to touch us, heal us and make us whole both as individuals and as the human race.

Just as I thought, Christmas means different things to different people.

What I notice, however, is the importance of spending time with one another and the quality of our relationships with family, friends and a wider community is at the heart of what Christmas means to most people.

And for me that is one of the deep insights of the Christmas gospel, God choosing to spend time with us, establishing a relationship through the child in Bethlehem’s manger so that in all the everyday things of home and family and work, God can be with us and we can be with God.

So what about you, what does Christmas mean to you?

Whatever it means, enjoy.

The Very Rev Dr Russell Bar is minister at Cramond Kirk