December once again eh? It hardly seems possible, yet here we are once more with Advent calendars making their seasonal appearance and the prospect of so much more to come in the weeks ahead.
As a festival, there’s no doubt that Christmas has grown arms and legs. What was once a joyful celebration of Christ’s birth has long been hijacked by big business, turning it into a glitzy celebration of consumer peer pressure. Advertisers do their utmost to capture our attention, while credit companies look forward to a profitable January at the expense of so many families.
Whatever you make of the Christmas story, it seems clear that the message of the angels was not, “Spend, spend, spend!” Rather, these heralds pointed to a child who would grow up to offer the whole world a way of living far removed from social prestige and the fickle lure of possessions; a radical way, breaking free from all the assumptions of materialism. This is a rebellious way which even today refuses to conform to the world’s standards. And that’s the challenge of Christmas for us.
Every year around this time I say pretty much the same thing, namely that I love the festivities which are to come – although if that’s all Christmas is about, then it’s about as authentic as a plastic reindeer.
Come to think of it, what was that angelic message to the shepherds: those poor, humble, outcasts on the very edges of Palestinian society? It ran something like this: “Do not be afraid; for see – I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people.”
That is the deep, poetic truth of Christmas. And that is what’s genuinely worth celebrating this and every December.
When it comes, have a Merry Christmas, and a joyful one too!