I’ve been thinking about what Christmas holds in store this year – and by ‘store’ I don’t mean Myers! But isn’t that just what Christmas has become? Every year we hear the plea from those of us inclined to a religious/spiritual view of life to bring Christ back into Christmas. My hope is that this Christmas, as the world goes through financial turmoil, we may know again that what we celebrate does not have to be more presents, that life does not consist in the abundance of our possessions.
This Christmas many people the world over are suffering, and this time it isn’t just in the developing world. The global financial situation has meant that many will come to this Christmas having to tell their children that mum or dad no longer has a job and therefore we can’t afford as many presents this year. If that is you, then this Christmas can be more meaningful than ever. Because despite the consumerist madness that still lures us, despite its clear failures, and despite the fact that with interest rate cuts and government bailouts, we are being told to spend up big, the truth is that Christmas is actually much bigger than that. This is a time when another One who suffered, the Suffering Servant himself, came into the world to relate to us in our human condition. This is a God who knows what we are going through, because he has been through it himself. This is a God who immersed himself in our world-weary lives, rolled up his sleeves and got himself dirty.
Christmas doesn’t have to be merry to be meaningful. So it was with the Christ-child. Born to an unmarried teenager in an occupied third world country, his birth was first announced to simple labourers who were herding someone else’s sheep. Jesus was associated with suffering from the beginning of his life to the end. The Old Testament foreshadows him as a man of sorrows, acquainted with grief. As we remember the genocide in the Congo we remember that Jesus too was the target of genocide. As we remember refugees fleeing wars for a foreign land, we remember that Jesus too was forced to flee as a refugee to Egypt. When we remember the despised and rejected ones in our own society, we remember that Jesus too was despised and rejected by his own people. And when we remember ourselves, with less money and more job insecurity, we remember that Jesus said blessed are you who mourn for you will be comforted.
The Prince of Peace came so that God’s kingdom may come on earth as it is in heaven. To a world of suffering he offers hope, and to our troubled hearts he offers peace. May you know the peace of Christ this Christmas, and may he give you the strength you need to see hope in our troubled land.