“Why would you NOT want to celebrate Christmas?”

Filed on 20 December 2014 in Food For Thought category. Print This Page

“Why would you NOT want to celebrate Christmas?”

Yes, it happens to be part of our “Christian” story but just think about what it means even when commercialised – it is about a rest from busyness, a giving and receiving of presents and mingling. Hopefully a time when people in getting together can forgive and even reconcile.

Sadly, it can also be a time when in the midst of joy and because that joy is felt and experienced by others – or at least seems to be – the sense of loss for what might have been and may still be lost brings regret and grief and highlights pain in the present.

But then, as has been shown in recent overwhelming community support in time of tragedy, people come together to comfort and express solidarity.

This is part of our Christian culture and heritage. This is who we are. This support, comfort and love is part of what we express at Christmas and which all people can join in just simply because it is Christmas. Why would we want to destroy this?

But as we have seen it is also a time of contrasts – of brokenness and healing, of forgiveness and resolute un-forgiveness, of love and hate, of good and evil. May we all know the goodness of the Christmas story and celebrate it together. No more “happy holiday” substitution. Let us respond with “peace and goodwill my friend and I wish for you blessing and joy and comfort”.

What is the story? Yes, it is easy for the story to get lost in the superficiality of the nativity scene in the stable – but even that is good. Even then it is about new life and new beginnings and joy and simplicity and children and farm animals. Even then it is good.

But it is so much more. It is about a young woman getting pregnant and then her husband to be is reassured by an angel (it’s not too hard to believe in angels is it?) that she had not played around and then, amazingly, in order to fulfil an ancient prophecy, Mary and Joseph have to travel to Bethlehem – their town of origins – for a census ordered by Caesar Augustus who had no idea he was fulfilling prophecy by this order. Wow – it gets intriguing doesn’t it?

And then there’s the account of the astrologers from the East (why the “East”? it’s part of our lexicon now). They studied the stars and found in them a message that a King was to be born. They followed the star and bring gifts of significance to the baby king – what an incredible story in itself, shrouded in mystery and wonder!

And then there were angels singing in the sky and awestruck shepherds in the fields by night, witnessing this and they went to find the stable. Another story wrapped in mystery and wonder! Wouldn’t it be wonderful to follow the individual stories of those shepherds?

And then there’s the evil Herod. So many stories include an evil ruler or would-be ruler – look at the movies released at Christmas time for kids – but this one is real. Herod was evil incarnate long before the slaughter of the babes of Bethlehem. And the astrologers are warned in a vision not to return to Herod and Herod in his fury orders that all the male children under the age of two in Bethlehem and the surrounding region are to be killed. Evil reigns, tragedy is real and is felt by all – weeping and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children, because they are not – once again, fulfilling an ancient prophecy.

Think now of the slaughter of over a hundred schoolchildren of Peshawar in Pakistan. Evil contrasted with peace and goodwill. Christmas is a time of contrasts, but good must triumph – this is the message of Christmas.

And amazingly (once again) Joseph is warned by an angel to get up and flee – to Egypt of all places – and so he gets up in the middle of the night, rouses Mary and they flee. No consultation with the elders to confirm the vision – he just does it and they are safe. The baby born to be King is safe. How can this story be so intriguing? We could write a book on it! Well, actually, many books! Maybe they have already been written…

There’s more – Joseph is ultimately informed by an angel that it is safe to return to Israel but not to home because another despot reigns in place of Herod but to a village in Galilee known as Nazareth, thus fulfilling another ancient prophecy.

OK, so there we have it. Yes, there does happen to be more to the story but for the moment that is enough. This story has become part of our world culture in all places even though there are many places in which it is brutally repressed and people are tortured and killed simply because they own the story.

What a story – encompassing so many stories – it is!

Yes, of course we should celebrate the story.

May we in the midst of strife and tragedy – echoing the original story – seek goodwill and restoration and be forgiving to the people and relatives with whom we have contact this Christmas. Yes, let us exchange gifts and think of those in other places that are not so fortunate. Let us celebrate what we have rather than what we have not, let us celebrate this still lucky country, let us join together in harmony with all races and cultures and extend the hand of goodwill to all – and may we all accept that hand when extended by others.

This is Christmas. Let us celebrate this most magnificent story. (There’s more, but that’s enough…)

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