This is the low point of the year in the UK. Short, and often dark, days when the prevailing SW wind brings black rain clouds scudding low over the Kent countryside. The willow, with its roots deep in the Ewell stream, knows it too. It has finally shed all of its leaves as if to say, 'Well, its time for a bit of rest'. But for the rest of us, humans, it is a time of frenetic activity, the time of rejoicing, the celebration of the birth of Jesus.
The world certainly took a new turn, without knowing it, at the birth of that child. Of all that has been written and sung about Jesus in the past 2000 years nothing can come near to his own words reported in the gospels. Like his compatriots he was caught up in the political maelstrom in Israel at that time. On the one hand nationalist zealots and on the other time-serving Sadducees in high places, and the Roman occupiers keeping a watchful eye and sword. Extraordinarily, Jesus spoke about forgiving enemies and coming to terms with adversaries before it was too late. For judgement was about to begin with God's chosen people.
But it also seems that he foresaw that his own death at the hands of his enemies would be the only way forward for all peoples in a new relationship with God. Since Jesus' vindication, and his resurrection to be the Lord and Christ at the heart of God's world for ever, we have been trying to follow his example of humble reconciliation and forgiveness with off and on success. It is a process we are committed to keep on at, and Christmas is the time when we say to the Christ, 'We will follow you, and with your help bring reconcilation to our divided society.'