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Ironic or poignant?

Time to switch on the Christmas lights here in Teddington last night. A choir was assembled from all the local churches and we stood together with the Salvation Army band to start the proceedings with carols. As our voices rose into the frosty air sending up little clouds from each singer, the crowd grew in front of us. It was a Christmas snapshot to remember.

However, just as we were singing ‘It came upon a midnight clear’ and we reached the line about still through the cloven skies they come with peaceful wings unfurled, an ambulance came hurtling past with lights blazing and siren blaring. For a moment the singers could not be heard above its din. Did the presence of the ambulance mock the words or add to their poignancy, I wonder?

Those preachers who are pastors too will often have had the experience of talking about Christmas joy one minute whilst comforting the dying the next. Are we kidding ourselves – or does the brightness of the Christmas star shine brighter against the backdrop of human pain?  Christmas preaching which ignores human suffering is as unconvincing as a cheap manger scene, but Christmas preaching which fails to herald the good news is like the one faulty fairy light bulb which leaves the whole tree in darkness.

As a preacher, how do you handle the contrast between joy and suffering at this time of year?

Richard Littledale

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