It is two days before Christmas, and then it will be Christmas for twelve whole days – then we can take down our trees and get back to normal – well, as normal as we can manage.
The past month of sales, and reindeer, and parties wasn’t Christmas
– that was Advent
Advent is kicked aside by crowds of paraders and party-ers, and retailers and exploiters, pretending that it is the Christmas season and that somehow, in their unbelief, that they can have a claim on Christmas. But they can’t.
Christmas is a Christian thing, but all may share in it.
It doesn’t belong to big retailers or grocery shops.
It doesn’t belong to people of other religions or of no religion.
But Christmas is offered to those others to share, so they may be blessed through it.
Of course, the blessings are very temporary if they are hidden or subverted – we’ve all seen that is so.
Christmas isn’t just another party day
And it certainly has nothing really with trees and tinsel, lightbulbs and laughter,
parties and pageants and presents.
It really has not much to do with St Nicholas (whose day was back on the 6th December), and who has been kidnapped and parodied in the fat fatuous fiction of Father Christmas or Santa Claus.
Christmas is so much more important than shallow frippery
… it calls for and deserves quiet, joyful, respectful, loving respect of it and of those people around us.
It should be a gathering in celebration with friends and family.
Many of us work so hard at celebrating – not necessarily celebrating joy or anything like that, but celebrating the spirit of competition, and celebrating what we imagine to be our personal achievements.
We erect so many coloured lights that darkness can be no more. Perhaps it is darkness inside us we are fighting.
Or perhaps all those lights are simply a sign that darkness has won.
It’s filled us with an irrational fear – We are afraid of being left out in the dark
… fear of being left out
… fear of being judged by our peers
… fear of not being accepted
… fear of appearing less than those around us.
BUT that can be treated with a good dose of REAL CHRISTMAS
with its love and kindness. It worked for Scrooge, and it can work for us.
Christmas is about Christ …
Now whether or not you believe in Jesus Christ is your problem, I don’t want to hear about what you believe or not, or about how intelligent and rational you imagine yourself to be. This isn’t about what you or I believe. It’s about the Christ story.
It’s about how humans can live – how humans MUST live if humanity is to survive …
The real Christmas story is more of a struggle than the story we usually see in our Nativity plays.
This baby we picture in the manger deserves to be our guide, our example, our inspiration …
He is important because, even if we don’t realise the truth ourselves,
that truth is that we need to be saved from heading down our destructive paths we are all too happy to follow, and to be restored to a right and healthy human way of living.
Delicate and soft … the baby came in a tiny parcel … a baby born into a low socio-economic group … born to a teenager without a ring on her finger … born in the squalor of real human existence, in a crappy unhygienic animal shed. Like all babies, he was born small and helpless.
And nobody cared.
Well, almost nobody cared.
Mary and Joseph cared of course … Mary had gone through a lot in this first pregnancy of hers … shock … supernatural visions … worry about the probable break up with her fiancé – but thankfully that didn’t happen…
All through her pregnancy, as her teenage unmarried belly swelled, there were wagging fingers, and the flapping tongues, of those who would judge and gossip.
She could see it all … she could feel the disapproval coming in waves … she could feel her worth being sucked away by the vibrations given out by the unloving uncaring people who glowed in the light of their own self worth.
She was shunned by the other young women – the “righteous” ones …the first-century yummy-mummies who gathered and postured in the market place wishing that coffee shops would soon be invented so they could put their insecurity and shallowness and hypocrisy on display in more comfort
– they gossiped and looked down their noses at Mary – they had their blokes and their mortgages – their wedding and engagement rings sparkled
– they didn’t get caught out on some dark night and have to carry the consequence sticking out in front of them for all to see and laugh about
– their babies were perfectly legal, good and kosher, and they were happy
– well, at least they said so – at least they made the effort to fool themselves into believing they were happy, and unafraid of the world.
But you know, they were afraid … and they still are.
The long journey, so close to Mary’s due date wouldn’t have been much fun.
At least it wasn’t snowing – despite what the Christmas cards might tell us, Jesus wasn’t born in mid-winter – sheep weren’t out in the fields in midwinter, they were safely penned and shedded in farm yards and village outskirts – even simple shepherds weren’t dumb enough to abide in icy fields.
But winter or not, there were no trains or busses – ancient Palestine was even worse than modern South Australia when it comes to public transport. It was a long walk, and the Bible doesn’t mention any donkey
… besides, she was a woman, and women walked behind.
So she and Joseph walked the 112 kilometres from Nazareth to Bethlehem … and when they finally arrived, as exhausted as they were, they prepared for the risky business of birth that day or the next.
But… families being families, things didn’t go as smoothly then as they could have. Joseph and Mary were an inconvenience.
They found themselves rejected by those they should have been able to depend on.
“No room in the inn” our traditional stories tell us – but the Bible doesn’t mention an inn
… what the Bible texts tell us is that there was no room in the extended family’s guest room – the kataluma.
And doesn’t this make the story worse than telling us there was a full pub? Worse, because what this is saying on a human level is the cousins had “no room in their hearts for Joseph and his girl with a bun in the oven”.
So young Mary laboured in pain and sweat and fear in a stinking dark byre downstairs while the more worthy family guests partied and slept in the comfort of clean sheets upstairs in the breezy upper rooms on the roof reserved to impress more important visitors.
And down there, in the sad, grim dark, she gave birth to the baby we recognise as Light in a dark world.
Consider the stories about him.
His ways could be our ways, and his ways were kindness and peace and love.
Often, when he grew up, we are told that he said “Go and do likewise” when he did an act of kindness or of wonder . Imagine if we did.
What a great ongoing Christmas present that would be – for us and for everybody!
Even if you do not, or cannot, believe that this kid is “God in the Flesh” we can all learn a lot from him. His ways can be light in our darkness,
whatever our particular darkness may be.
A very happy and merry Christmas to everybody who reads this!