Thursday, November 21, 2013

Newspaper Column for December 27

What's It All About Anyway???

Here we are on the third day of Christmas. Did your French Hens arrive this morning? Mine neither. Just as well, I have no room for them anyway.

By now the wrapping paper has been bagged and tossed, the Turkey leftovers are stuffed in the fridge, many of us have eaten more chocolate than we really should (but can you ever eat too much chocolate?), and maybe we have time to sit and reflect a bit. One of my favourite moments in Christmas television is Charlie Brown screaming “Can ANYBODY tell me what this is all about?”, partly because I don't think we talk about that question enough. Maybe now we can pause and ask ourselves what all the hustle and bustle and noise of the last month has been all about.

The Grinch had it all figured out, or so he thought. Christmas was all about presents and toys and food and noise. But he was wrong.

Scrooge had it all figured out too. Christmas was a poor excuse to pick a man's pocket every year. It was a waste of time and money. But he was wrong.

Some in the church have it all figured out. Christmas is about insisting that the story is all important and factual and fighting against Santa or “Happy Holidays” or anything that draws attention from the baby born to a virgin and lying in a manger. Turns out they may be wrong too.

And so I come back to the question Charlie Brown asks; “Can anyone tell me what Christmas is all about?”. Is it the gifts? The holiday? Family? The story?

In the end Christmas is sort of about all those things and yet more than that. It is about the giving of tokens of love and affection to each other. It is about taking time away from being “productive” to spend with those who are important in our lives. It is about a story, a mixture of myth and legend and faith, told in words and songs and pictures of a special baby. But, for me, none of these quite answer Charlie Brown's question.

What is my answer? What does Christmas mean for me? Christmas is about birth. Christmas is about God breaking into our lives. That is the story we tell. That is the reason for our praise. We aren't celebrating the birth of a child over 2000 years ago. We celebrate the fact that here, now, as 2013 turns into 2014, something new is being born.

We don't find the meaning in Christmas by complaining about commercialism. Nor do we find it in the crowds of the pre- or post-Christmas sales. We don't find it in arguments about what “really happened” when Jesus of Nazareth was born. We don't find it in songs about silent nights or songs about bells jingling on a one horse sleigh.

We might find it in the grin on the face of a loved one opening a gift. We might find it in the peace we feel as we gather with friends and family to hear again the story of God being with us in a new way. We might find it in a surprising way, when suddenly we see a glimmer of hope, a spark of light, in a place where once there was only darkness and despair.

The great promise and hope of Christmas is that in the midst of our crises and troubles we hear of God breaking into our world and our lives. We are reminded that there is a light that no shadow can overcome. We listen for the song that brings “good news for all people”. The birth we celebrate may come in a way and place we don't expect, but our story reminds us that God rarely does the expected. Still there is light, there is hope, there is joy.

What is being born this Christmas? Where do we hear angel song? What hope is being awoken? And how will we react?

Now that the hustle and bustle are over the work of living Christmas hope begins. How will you carry Christmas hope, Christmas promise, Christmas light into the New Year?

God Bless US, Every One. Merry Christmas, and a Blessed New Year.

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