So the festive season is upon us once again. Yippee! I hear you cry - or maybe not. Over the next few weeks we will dash around the shops to purchase presents and other Christmas goodies, all the time accompanied by Noddy Holder shouting 'It's Christmas!' and the iridescent flash of Rudolph's nose - deep joy. The Christmas and New Year editions of the TV papers will be out soon too. I, like many others, will be scouring the Radio Times red pen in hand to make sure I don't miss the unmissable; iPlayer notwithstanding of course. I think the Christmas special of Doctor Who will rank quite highly on our household's must see list, probably followed by a film we've already seen 20 times. And after Turkey with all the trimmings we can settle down for a snooze in semi-sozzled slumber. For this is the season of goodwill, where joy to the world rings out from every rooftop - or maybe not.

You see the thing about Christmas (or should I say Christmas as is peddled in the 21st Century) is the awful assumption that everybody must be happy! Whether they like it or not. It feels like we're not allowed to be sad, or to tell the other side of the story. The story about the person who will face a painful anniversary during the Christmas season. The story about the suffering from a life-threatening illness whose apprehensive smile thinly covers a chasm of anxiety. And the story of countless numbers around the globe who will go hungry this Christmas whilst a small percentage of the world's population gorge themselves silly. I don't mean to be all 'bah humbug', and I don't want to discourage the need for fun and frivolity, family and friendship; but at the same time we must not forget the stories of those who are so often marginalised at Christmas.

After all, the story that inspires Christians at this time was no happy affair either, despite the pantomime gloss it is so often given. It is a story of uncertainty, of hardship, of rejection, of persecution. And yet in the face of it all something so amazingly wonderful happens, the birth of a baby, the Prince of Peace, Immanuel, God with us. Perhaps this is the true story behind Christmas. That wherever we are in our lives, however uncertain things may seem, that through Christ there is always the potential for something wonderful to happen. This is a hope we must not forget, but neither must we allow it to whitewash the struggles we face.

So I do wish you all a wonderful and Christ filled Christmas. And I pray that God's love will touch you where you need it most as you brave the Christmas rollercoaster once again.

Yours in Christ,

Tim