Happy Christmas to you all. There, I have said it and it wasn’t so bad after all, was it?

But what do the words actually mean. I don’t know all of you and I will probably never meet you all. So why am I wishing you all a Happy Christmas? Do I really want you all to be happy and, given all that is happening in the world, is happy the right sentiment anyway?

Christmas is, of course, a complicated concept in itself. Clearly it will not and does not have the same meaning to everyone who will read this. Many of you may know or remember that a key reading used at Christmas time in churches is the first part of John’s gospel, which says: “in the beginning was the Word … and the Word was made flesh”. They are very familiar words, but what do they mean? How can a word be made flesh?

One of the most ridiculous sayings in my estimation is that “Stick and stones may break my bones but words can never hurt me.” This is clearly wrong. We have all been hurt by words and we have all, I suspect, used words which have hurt others. Words do take on a real power and do become real. Again, many of us will know the strength of feelings that can be aroused when we say “I love you”, or someone says it to us.

Christmas is about the word becoming real. God took on flesh and so we as people have the possibility of engaging with each other at a deep level, and in a way that would not have been possible had this not happened.

Words are important and, of course, words can also be throwaway and trivial. When you say “Happy Christmas” to someone this year what will it mean? Are you simply doing what is expected of you or are you using words with a real meaning and a sense of power?

For me Christmas is vital in that it is life-giving because it is the day we remember that the Word became flesh. Christmas is important because it means that who we are and what we say matters.

I pray that this Christmas, given the situation of the world and the fear that is around for understandable reasons, we may all consider the words we use and the reasons we use them. Words are powerful and do take on a life of their own.

Please take this season with the importance it deserves and begin by choosing and using carefully the words to say what you want. So on that note: a happy Christmas to you all!

+Tim