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I have been thinking about the beauty of Christmas time and what wonderful traditions we have built up around Christmas. Christmas traditions are a bit like the petals on a rose. A rose is beautiful because it has many, many layers of soft, velvety petals, and Christmas is beautiful because it has so many layers of lovely traditions. In the UK, there is a tradition of making wreaths. We hang these creations on our doors as a sign of welcoming people into our homes at this special time of the year. We might also have wreaths on our tables, gathering friends and family around to enjoy seasonal food.

Prince Albert brought the tradition of the Christmas tree from Germany to England in 1840 and now we couldn?t imagine Christmas without Christmas trees. They are everywhere! We decorate the trees with lights, tinsel, angels and stars. We also hang lights on our houses and in our town centres. Children count down the days with Advent Calendars. They hang their stockings and leave treats for Father Christmas and Rudolph. The tradition of giving gifts shows people how much we care about them. So, these are some of the many wonderful traditions that surround Christmas, making it beautiful just like the dozens of petals that make a rose so eye-catching.

But is Christmas only about traditions? What is at the centre of it all? What is Christmas really all about? I would like to propose to you that Christmas is really a celebration of love. Now, you might disagree with that. You might think, ?Janice, Valentine?s Day is a celebration of love, not Christmas!? Well, of course you are right that Valentine?s Day is a celebration of love?usually romantic love?but there are different types of love, aren?t there? For instance, I have lots of amazing friends and I really love them. But I love my friends differently than I love my husband, and I love my children differently again. I even love my dog!

To me, Christmas is a celebration of God?s love for humanity. It?s the time when we remember that Jesus was born, and we can reflect on Jesus? life. We are very privileged that we still have access to the biographies that were written about Jesus nearly 2,000 years ago. Jesus didn?t write any books himself, but some of his good friends wrote books about him. And when we read those, we see that Jesus was not just a great guy, he wasn?t simply a fabulous teacher, and he wasn?t even just a miracle worker?even though he was all three of those things. Jesus said of himself that he was God, and when we examine these biographies, we have to admit that he really was completely different than anyone else who has ever lived. Jesus came to show us what God?s love is like, and that is why I think that Christmas is really a celebration of love.

So as you go about enjoying all of the wonderful Christmas traditions this year, my hope is that each of us will gain a clearer understanding of God?s love for us.

Janice Hopkins