A VISIT TO Israel, the land God chose for the birth of his Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, brings with it an awareness of the richness of God’s love and the gifts he has for each one of us.  During my time there I was touched by the awesomeness of his love, grace and mercy.

angels_singingVisiting Bethlehem, the town where Jesus was born, and standing in the Shepherds’ Field where angels proclaimed the arrival of the Christ-child, brought a fresh awareness of the Christmas story. I understood anew the wonder of my Lord and my God – Immanuel, God with us.

As I sat in the magnificent church on the Mount of Beatitudes, overlooking the Sea of Galilee, the words of one of the Beatitudes captured my heart: Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.

Many people find Christmas particularly difficult, the grief of their lives intensifies in the midst of the heightened air of excitement and anticipation. There are those who are mourning – those who are bereaved, those with broken relationships, the loss of hopes and dreams. To each one, Jesus brings his gift of comfort. He gently says: Blessed are you who mourn, for you shall be comforted.

As I walked the streets of Jerusalem, where Jesus once walked, I was reminded of how heJesus and leper reached out to the poor and needy, those who lived on the edge of their communities. Jesus reached out to all in need – and he does that for all of us today. At Christmas time there are those who feel alone and lonely. To each one Jesus brings his gifts of love and acceptance.

As I talked with Jesus in the serenity of the Garden of Gethsemane, the words of an old hymn came to mind:

I come to the Garden alone,
While the dew is still on the roses
And He walks with me,
And He talks with me
And He tells me I am His own

The words of the contemporary Christian song, Servant King, also capture the pathos of Christ in the Garden of Gethsemane as he awaited his arrest and pending crucifixion. It speaks of the garden of tears where Christ chose to bear our heavy load, where his heart was torn with sorrow, but in obedience to his Father, he declared: ‘Not my will, but Yours be done.’

At Christmas time there are those who are carrying heavy loads. To all, Jesus offers his gifts of empathy, kindness, care and compassion. He invites everyone to give him that heavy load, and receive from him his love, joy and peace.

His name shall be calledChristmas is a time to reflect upon the love of God, demonstrated to us through the birth of his Son, the Lord Jesus Christ – our Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace – the One who knows us intimately, loves us deeply, and who offers us Life with a capital ‘L’.

This Christmas may each one of us accept the gift of God’s love and embrace him in all his fullness. May it be a truly happy Christmas for you and for those you love.

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