Christmas is coming, and I am very busy, so instead of writing a new post I have decided to reproduce a short document I wrote for myself and friends in 2013 about being busy at Christmas. Apologies to those who have seen this before.
The 2013 Anti-Christmas Rant
In my former church in Aberdeen, there was a children’s song, which went something like this:
Crackers and turkey and pudding and cream/Toys in the window like I’ve never seen/This is the Christmas that everyone sees/But Christmas means more to me./It’s somebody’s birthday I won’t forget/As I open the things that I get/I’ll remember the inn and the stable so bare/And Jesus who once lay there.
Happily, we do not sing this song at Christ Church. I would not go so far as to say I was traumatised by it, but I would like to take this opportunity, ladies and gentlemen, to utterly repudiate its message.
I love Christmas – I also love Advent and New Year. But it is a busy time. Everyone celebrates Christmas in a different way, and I’m sure none of us judges the ways other people choose to do it. You can choose to concentrate your Christmas celebrations in one or (usually) more of the following aspects:
- Hospitality – having family members round, cooking for twelve etc
- Beautiful presents, beautifully wrapped, for everyone you know
- Communicating Christmas wishes by card, round-robin letter, e-card or Youtube festive video
- Attending carol services, performances of the Messiah, amateur pantomime (or performing in same)
- Partying, eg office party, pub on Christmas Eve, having friends and neighbours round.
- Decorating your house beautifully inside
- Decorating your house and garden spectacularly outside
- Serving the community, eg by volunteering for Crisis charity, giving to Christmas appeals
- Being nice to everyone, especially children, especially your own children, because it’s Christmas
- Watching Christmas TV (Doctor Who!) or DVDs (It’s a Wonderful Life)
- Doing something completely different, eg skiing holiday
- (A new entry for this year) Dressing up in special Christmas clothes.
(I mentally divide up Christmas activities into the religious, the secular, the Dickensian and the kitsch, but many of the above fall into several of the categories.)
Surely no one does all of the above, but you get the idea. My personal choices are Christmas cards/letters, and Advent calendar, homemade of course. (Most bought Advent calendars are a consumerist tacky nightmare, but that is a completely different rant.) As I said above, each to their own. All of the above are nice things, and who could disapprove of any of them? But it all does mean that people are busy and stressed and under pressure to be happy… and that is not even starting on the financial and debt issues. For many people, including many Christians, December is not the happiest or most peaceful time.
If you are a Christian, you have all the above pressures AND ALSO you can choose, or be under pressure, to
- Take part in, volunteer to help at, etc, Christmas services and events (THANK YOU TO ALL WHO DO!)
- Let the light shine through you because this is the time when people come to church and may discover the Real Meaning and so they have to see the light of Jesus shine extra brightly, not forgetting to invite all these busy friends, colleagues and neighbours to come
- Find time to read Advent reflections, sit quietly and reflect, and generally think about and absorb the Real Meaning.
Can we really cope with all this? Is it sensible to try?
Back to the song. When I’m opening a present on Christmas Day (I got lots of lovely books this year) I am not thinking about the inn or the stable. I am thinking about the present, perhaps the person who gave it to me, hopefully also the other people in the room with me. It was as late as last year when I finally realised that I do not need to feel guilty about not having time for deep solitary mediation on Christmas Day.
So the moral of this rant is
Christmas is not a doctrine. It is a festival. It is not compulsory for anyone, Christian or non-Christian, to celebrate it in any way at all.
It occasionally becomes a little teensy bit tiresome to be told by well-meaning people that yes, we are all stressed, but let’s make time for pondering the Real Meaning of the Incarnation. If we’re not celebrating the Incarnation all year round, in February and July and September, what kind of Christians are we anyway? O Come All Ye Faithful gives us a warm glow on 25th December, but John 1:1-14 glows all year round. It’s not better at Christmas than the rest of the year, it’s just that non-Christians (or “folk religion Christians”, as Alan [vicar] might say) only notice it at this time.
PS I enjoy Christmas really, I do.
Partial, Prejudiced and Ignorant Blogger