Moderator of the General Assembly’s Christmas Message

Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, Rt Rev John Chalmers, has left a message for readers this Christmas.

He said: “I love almost everything about Christmas. You’d think a minister would criticise the commercialisation of Christmas; you’d think a minister would complain about a society that substitutes X for Christ; you’d think that a minister would have plenty to say about over-indulgence and fairy-tale expectations, but, no – I can leave all of that to one side.

“Of course, the real reason that I love Christmas is that when you dig beneath the surface, even if party goers and revel rousers don’t realise it, Christmas is what it is, because women and men for hundreds of years have wanted to celebrate God’s part, God’s place and God’s presence in the world.

“Just look at the story of the first Christmas. Forget about historical analysis, it’s not a chapter from a history book. Instead look at the symbolism with which the story is shot through.

“That while the world gets on with its usual business – some of it cruel and some of it kind – God is right there in the middle of it all. While the over-booked Bethlehem Hotel resounds with hectic activity, a poor unmarried mother huddles in a barn. While a vicious ruler (Herod) plots the murder of innocent children a vulnerable life (the baby Jesus) enters the world and while princes and politicians were oblivious to the presence of God - humble shepherds knew better.

“So, no matter how carried away we get with the peripheral stuff; we can’t get away from the God who appears on the scene. Whatever may preoccupy us in the run up to Christmas Day – thousands of us will make our way to churches across the country to hear about God penetrating our busyness and becoming “God with us”.

“I love the idea that God comes down to earth at Christmas and does not let me forget those who will not enjoy all the stuff that I enjoy. I will see the face of Christ in the lives of those who are as vulnerable as Mary and her holy child and I will know the hand of God in those who reach out to serve them.”