Another Christmas is done and dusted! How was yours? Thankfully, ours was peaceful and relaxing. I managed to avoid any family conflict or discord this year. Given the love-hate relationship many people have with Christmas, it is easy to understand the negativity that surrounds this annual Christian celebration.
Regardless of whether Christmas has a spiritual meaning for you or not; if one can pare back all the man-made trappings that the festive season brings especially in the developed world, the Christmas message can be a powerful one.
Take away the window dressing of tinsel and baubles, giant Santas and cherubic images to imagine a much more humble setting. Outcasts are driven from their home to seek shelter in a stable because there is no other place for them. Mary and Joseph bed down with the animals to await the arrival of their child. All across the world women give birth to babies every day. It is a source of wonderment that a new being comes into the world nine months after conception. What makes the nativity scene such a love story is not only the bond shared by the parents of Jesus but that God so loved his only son and was prepared to let him live as one of us and hopefully lead us to the cross. It is a story of hope in a world that is so bereft of it. For me, it illustrates the beauty of this humble beginning that says fear not if you are not rich or powerful; you matter regardless.
The sermon message on Christmas Day at my local church was one of how Jesus has come to serve the lowly (insert disadvantaged, poor, abused, bullied, exploited etc) not the wealthy and powerful. Some will say this smacks of left-wing politics but then social justice requires advocating for those who don’t have a voice.
Living in a secular climate that seeks to remove or reduce God to a nice fairy tale; there is still a justification for the celebration of Christmas. Journalist, Greg Sheridan explores this in his commentary “Christmas Story Still Resonates” in the Weekend Australian (Sheridan 2019). Sheridan’s says ” Christmas remains the most universal, powerful symbol of both humanity and divinity, not only in the West but in the entire world.” He makes note of the historical events that surround the Christian story and points us towards some creditable authors including historian John Dickson who has recently published, “Is Jesus History?”. Sheridan makes the point that supreme gods in other religions, do not compare to the treatment that the Christian god endures via defeat on earth, arrested, tortured, humiliated and killed most cruelly and grotesquely (Sheridan 2019).
Like many others, I enjoy the festivities that Christmas brings but it is the simple tale of love come down that makes me want to bother with Christmas and offers hope in the new year ahead.
Sheridan, Greg (2019), “Christmas Story Still Resonates”, Weekend Australian, December 21-22. pp13 & 16.
What has changed in my faith journey since Easter last year? Not a lot I think to myself. After many years of involvement in my city parish and through my work, I have stepped back from the busyness of my life. I thought my purpose was all preordained and God had placed me where I was meant to be. Number one mistake! Yes, it was where I was meant to be at that time, a time when I grew and learnt much about myself and others. But faith is not a static thing, it needs to grow or move beyond the comfortable boundaries we adopt.
The past two years have been a period of transition. Instead of trying to walk with others in their struggles, I have been granted a time to reconnect with nature and the more physical aspects of my being. Mentally, I feel much stronger and much less stressed, but there is a sense I still hold onto memories and habits that hold me back. I start the new year with a zeal to make this my best year ever. Started well, but need to reassess and renew my goals for the year ahead.
I think Easter can be a bit like that. We prepare by giving up something we value or enjoy during Lent. To help us on this journey, some of us come together for weekly Lenten studies to explore the scriptures and what it means for us as we approach this most holiest period in the Christian calendar. There is the darkness of Good Friday, when Jesus dies on the cross in the most horrible manner followed by Easter Sunday. When the “Resurrection Sunday” euphoria wears off we need to make space in our busy lives to ponder why we were the recipients of such a powerful gift that continues to give throughout the year and beyond Easter.