At this stage of December it can be hard to feel excited about Christmas. You’ve endured advertising, supermarkets, shops (and accompanying muzak!) You’ve squeezed in extra events: end of year concerts, school awards, carol nights, Christmas drinks…
You’re anticipating the joy and/or stress of a family gathering. And for many, there’s the strain of trying to make money stretch in too many directions; maybe even buying presents you can’t afford.
It takes a determined effort not to lose sight of what we’re meant to be celebrating. Our culture pumps out particular messages about Christmas – most with a price tag attached.
This year, a simple idea has helped our family. It happens each night, after we open the advent calendar, and read some of the Christmas story. We each take turns at writing something we appreciate about Jesus on a bright paper shape, and attaching it to our Christmas tree. (Of course, the youngest draws a picture and writes her name instead).
I’m guessing you might now be steeling yourself for the religious tirade that has to be tolerated at these special holidays! Please rest assured: I’m as allergic to religious tirades as anyone, because I don’t think goodness, truth and hope can be communicated or discovered that way. My own spiritual journey needed about a decade of deeply struggling through questions, wounds, and the confusion that can come from our culture.
Cynicism was a posture that came easily, as life showed me that I wasn’t in control, pain was inevitable, and the world – an (a much later recognition) I, myself – was never able to fulfil my ideals.
I keep hearing the old carol: The hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight… In Bethlehem: in the coming of Emmanuel (God with us).
For me, these aren’t just nice words, they are the answer to my longings; because Jesus does embody my hopes, and speaks to the fears (and cynicism) of the years. Not only that, but if you read the accounts of his life, he is fascinating, passionate, fearless, loving (beyond imagining), complex and creative.
He lives what he teaches, and gives his followers what they need to live it too – in deep friendship with Him.
So, when I celebrate Christmas, this is the sort of reality that I’m trying to keep at the front. And what a reality, what an antidote to cynicism, what a reason to celebrate… every day.