Andy Walton is working on Christmas Day. He pays tributes to the many who are also sacrificing their time or working on December 25th.
Scrambled eggs and Bucks Fizz for breakfast... home made snowmen placed in precisely the same place each year... waiting for the Queen’s speech before unwrapping the pressies...
Each family I hear about has its own idiosyncratic way of ‘doing’ Christmas. These little traditions make it what it is – a unique occasion unlike any other time of celebration including birthdays, weddings and graduations.
So it was with a heavy heart that it dawned on me (in about July) that I would be breaking the habit of a lifetime this year. I was sad because every single Christmas morning had been the same for the last 28 years.
Mum, Dad, my sister and me. Presents. Chocolate. Croissants. T’was ever thus, and we like it.
So what’s the reason for my seasonal treachery? Well, I have to work. Every week I present the Sunday Breakfast programme on Premier Christian Radio.
So while in previous years the weekday and Saturday presenters have had to give up their Christmas mornings, this year I’m on air.
After the initial disappointment, though, I began to see it as an opportunity. One of the things I love about doing the programme is the number of people who get in touch to say that at various times the radio station has been a great friend and source of encouragement to them.
If, on Christmas morning, I can do something that will bring a sense of fellowship and friendship to just one person who might not otherwise have had it, then missing out on my personal Christmas traditions will have been worthwhile.
It’s often said that Christmas is one of the worst times of year to be lonely and isolated. Many listeners who feel this way have said the radio is a great source of comfort.
So, given that I’ll be sitting on my own in the studio, I aim to share my Christmas morning with anyone who doesn’t have family or friends alongside them. Don’t get me wrong, I’m hardly Mother Teresa - I’m just getting paid to chat on the radio!
As a Christian though, I feel Christmas is something more than a nice family time. It’s actually a celebration of the birth of Jesus – the Incarnation. CS Lewis called this the “central event in the history of the Earth - the very thing that the whole story has been about.”
If we believe this to be the case, then missing out on a family tradition is not a disaster – especially if we’re serving others.
Every year I marvel at the thousands who give up their Christmas Day to help run homeless shelters, serve Christmas dinner for elderly people and those who put on Christmas services in churches up and down the land.
But let’s remember others too. What about the emergency services who have to work on the 25th December? The medical staff who will be there for us if we trip over the kids’ hastily discarded toys or crash on an icy road.
The social workers, border staff, mental health workers, prison officers and the rest who will be away from their loved ones while serving their communities in numerous ways.
What if we take it even further and remember those who are in prison this Christmas, spending the time cut off from their families and who may be lonelier than ever? What about residents of care homes and nursing homes across the UK who may not have anyone to visit them and nowhere else they can go?
What about those taking a stand for justice and economic reform in the Occupy camp by the steps of St Paul’s Cathedral.
When I think about these groups of people it’s hard to feel sorry for myself. As soon as the radio programme is over, I’ll be on the motorway and heading north to join in the family fun.
Christmas dinner and presents will wait for me to drive the 200 miles and when I get there, the morning’s separation will be forgotten.
If we could foster an environment in which more and more of us used Christmas as a time for self-sacrifice and serving others, that would be the greatest Christmas tradition of them all.
God bless and Happy Christmas.
Andy Walton is a freelance writer and broadcaster, and can be heard on Premier Christian Radio.
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