It’s finally here, Christmas that is. It seemed to start its journey in mid-September and has wended its way via countless adverts, pre-Christmas sales, nativity plays and charitable ventures to this point. Of course in Worcester, Christmas arrives properly with the Victorian Christmas Fair, or should that be Fayre? This is its 23rd year and that is a lot of mulled wine and mince pies.
The phrase, ‘the real meaning of Christmas’ has become quite hackneyed and rather than rescue us from a tsunami of Christmas kitsch it simply becomes another aspect of it; almost as if it has become overwhelmed by all the forces of Christmas celebration firmly devoid of ‘real meaning’. So how do we avoid this trap? How do we draw genuine meaning from this season of celebration of the Christ’s birth?
Let’s start by leaving tradition aside shall we? Let’s dispense with horse-drawn carriages rolling across snowy rural landscapes, jovial Santa figures urging Dasher, Dancer and the rest of the reindeer ensemble across the rooftops and perfectly formed snowmen wondering why everything smells of carrots. Let’s also lose the overly-sanitised and regularised trios of the kings, the shepherds and finally Mary, Joseph and their trusty donkey. Let’s also forget Bing Crosby’s White Christmas, The Sound of Music and even Slade’s ‘It’s Chriiiiiiiiiiistmaaaaaaaas’. Let’s leave all of that on the Christmas cards and in the re-runs of the BBC’s Christmas specials. Let’s get back to what we have learned from reading the bible.
Why don’t we try reading the Christmas stories as if we have never read them before? Why don’t we try this when reading the account of Matthew, the Jewish tax collector who discovered that Jesus was the embodiment of God’s promise to Israel which reached back thousands of years into their history? Or when we read the early chapters of Mark’s gospel, where he was simply so eager to tell us about everything that Jesus did for the last, the lost and the least of people that it just spills out almost from the first line. Then there is Luke’s perspective which highlights the accessibility of God’s forgiveness and freedom, of Heaven’s wonder and mystery made available to everyone. Finally we could read John’s incredible revelation that Jesus was the essence of all of God’s words, intention and presence and He came here, to us, to planet Earth. He crammed His whole, eternal, glorious and unknowable self into a single cell, so that we could know a baby who grew into a person, one just like us, except unsullied by the mess that we had created.
I think if we could read these words with fresh understanding we would uncover more of all that Christmas can bring to us. We needn’t restrict it to Christmas of course because the truth is that all of the biblical accounts of Jesus’ arrival with us are relevant to all people, all of the time.
One of our seasonal anthems seems to be Roy Wood and Wizzard’s ‘I Wish It Could Be Christmas Every Day’. Guess what Roy, it really is!