Unbelievably, it’s Christmas time again. A fact brought home to me last Saturday as I walked through the Wellgate Centre, here in Dundee, now bedecked in Yuletide tinsel. But something else struck me. And it was that they are using new decorations. Since, for many years, they had Jester-like puppets at the top of each of the main halls pillars. I have often remarked that these figures were a bit of a conundrum. For, at a distance, they looked so very cheery in their scarlet and golden satins. But close up their faces had a solemn even morose air to them.

This however shouldn’t really surprise us. Because, up there on their high perch, they see every Christmas scene. They see, for example, the small girl or boy clutching pocket money for mum’s present. They see the young couple lost to the world in their love for each other. They also see the grandparents looking for just the right gift for a precious infant. All then happy scenes worthy of this season’s better face.

But what about its other face? The single parent with a meagre purse trying to find the means to buy the latest ‘must have’ toy. The middle aged husband and wife with nothing left in common than what they see in the shop windows. The well dressed woman able to buy anything she spies but no one to give it to.

Christmas time then can be two sided – it can be a time of joy or sadness.

This is brought out in a Christmas carol that we sing every Christingle Service and which always brings a lump to my throat. Here are some of its worlds

In a steamy kitchen a mother stands,
Peeling parsnips and boiling ham,
How she hopes the dinner will go to plan, this Christmas Time

In an empty street under cloudless skies,
Sits an old man with bundle tied,
And he huddles down for another night, this Christmas Time.

However Christmas need not have two faces. It can indeed be a season of unalloyed joy for everyone. We only need to remember whose birthday it is and then go and do what he would want to celebrate it.

Because, here is how ‘This Christmas Time’ ends:

In a cold stone church, under moon and stars,
People stand as the organ starts,
And the candles flicker into the dark, this Christmas Time.

There’s a world still needing to hear good news,
More than presents and Christmas food,
May we all find the love that God has for us, this Christmas Time.