Is it just me or is this Christmas busier than ever for people? Right up until this evening, I haven’t really felt like I’ve been still and thought much about the real meaning of Christmas this year.
Part of it has been to do with work; it’s been a busy time right up until today. But I’ve also been rushing around getting things organised and just having so many errands to run.
I can see why so many people just want Christmas to be over so they can get back to some semblance of normality in their lives. I certainly don’t hate Christmas; I never have. In fact all my life I’ve loved this time of year. It’s only in the last couple of years that Christmas has been particularly painful for me, as life circumstances made it a lonely time of year.
I still believe though that our society needs Christmas, if not for the actual meaning it bestows in the form of celebrating the birth of a loving and gracious God coming into the world as a vulnerable baby. But Christmas also seems to be a time when the idea of goodwill and peace to all still holds some value.
In a society in which Christmas actually adds stress because of the cultural pressure to buy the latest and the best for our families, I still sense a semblance this year of people just being that little bit nicer to each other. I heard it said many years ago that without Christmas, our society would probably be just that little bit more violent. I sense some truth in that, however contrived our extra niceness might be at this time of year.
I fear though for the future of Christmas. It is true that the more we remove ourselves from a sense of the religious in our lives and let ourselves be seduced by intensely clever marketing and the pursuit of materialistic gain sourced in consumerism, the more cold we become as the more we edge out any sense of soul at this time of year.
But while the church is around there is still hope. For all its abuses of trust and authority, the Christian movement (and I emphasise the term, “movement” as opposed to church, the latter of which triggers unhealthy images for many) still provides hope for many at Christmas.
As a pastor of mine once said, Christmas Day is a time when the lonely are lonelier and the poor are poorer. On such a day, it is the church and organisations with Christian roots that provide the vast majority of welfare services and comfort for those who are lonely and poor. That is of course not to denigrate the equally great work done by those with no Christian roots on this day. It is just to say that those of the Christian movement dispense a heck of a lot of love for people who really feel the need for it.
As I sit and reflect tonight on the birth of the baby in the manger who was a noisy, crying baby just like we all were (don’t believe the words of “Away in a Manger” – “no crying he makes”. Let’s be real about this), I am comforted and peace-filled that we haven’t completely forgotten this story just yet. There is still hope that our culture will continue to recognise the importance of remembering the birth of the One who has had more influence on the world than any other in history, and who alone is the source of human hope in a world that desperately needs it.
Have a wonderful, meaningful and hope-filled Christmas everyone.