One of the regrettable side effects of the Christmas season (aside from gross consumerism, adverts and a decreasing bank balance) is the ponderense of cheesy, quirky, or “modern” youtube videos shared on Facebook about the real meaning of Christmas by well meaning Christians. Being perverse, by nature and choice, I always want to share a video about what a wonderful man Scrooge was and how his economic model of thrift and austerity is a model to Christians everywhere. After all, an economist last year worked out that presents represent a 40% deadweight loss to society as the presents you buy for others cost more than the value you receive from the presents you get.
But such cynicism falls far short of my actual feelings about the Christmas season. Past my frothy misanthropic mask is a deep seated love for Christmas time. In particular, Christmas lunch. Maybe it's a sign I'm getting older but I look forward to lunch a lot more than presents. Think about it, presents can be for life (and that's not always a good thing) but a Christmas lunch really is just for Christmas.
I love the effort other people (not me) put into Christmas decorations and Christmas trees. I love cheesy Christmas movies (think The Holiday) and I love the fact that Christmas is a time for being together as a family. Even if that does mean enforced organised fun. This year I even enjoyed wearing a Christmas jumper; mainly because it got me lots of compliments from members of the opposite sex.
Good food, family time, presents, rubbish films, cheesy music and cheery decorations for winter days. Yep, Christmas is a wonderful antidote to the dark days and cold(er) weather.
A lot of Christians might say that Jesus being born into the world, God becoming man, is the true meaning of Christmas. I beg to differ, the true meaning of Christmas is found in the above paragraph, lying somewhere between Christmas lunch and the Dr Who Christmas Special. In terms of how I celebrate Christmas this rings more true than any religious motivation.
Jesus being born into the world, the Word becoming flesh, God dwelling with man, such an event is too big to be confined to Christmas time. The birth, life, death and resurrection of Jesus is the true meaning behind reality. This universe is nothing less than the great stage upon which God's plan of redemption is played out. Christmas is then subsumed into the greater meaning. Rather than a one off celebration of Jesus' birth it becomes a holiday to spend time with family, eat good food, relax and enjoy the good gifts of God, all while seeking still to live out a life of daily obedience to Jesus Christ.
The season of good will and peace to all men is not confined to Christmas, indeed, it is often innocuous in its absence at Christmas time. Rather such peace and good will is found in the growth of the church and the gospel. The great hypocrisy of Christmas is that when people make an effort to celebrate it's “true meaning” by going to church, or giving to charity or other acts of good, they do so knowing that when the season ends so does their effort.
The true meaning of Christmas has to be a passing thing because Christmas is a passing thing. The birth of Jesus is of eternal significance, much greater than a day set aside in December could celebrate, it is the true meaning of life. The purpose of man is to glorify and enjoy God forever, how else could that be achieved without the birth of Jesus Christ into this sinful world?
As Christians our subjective experience and daily life is based on the objective work of God in the past in carrying out his redemptive purposes. Thus, our joy in God, our confidence in heaven, our certainty of his care for us, our obedience to him, our acts of mercy and good, our church attendance are rooted and grounded in the narrative of salvation. This included but is no means limited to the coming of Christ into the world.
Therefore, every prayer, every joy, every coming close to God is a celebration of the person and work of Jesus Christ. We do not need a holiday to remember for every day is lived in the light of this historical and theological fact.
It is easy to remember the birth of Jesus for a season. The challenge is to remember it for a lifetime, to remember all that Jesus has done for us, that for our sake he gave up heaven's riches and became poor, to remember how he humbled himself to be God With Us and then to live in the light of this, with a lifetime of repentance and faith.
To conclude, have a very merry Christmas, make it a season of happy times, enjoy food, presents, family time, relaxing, and the Dr Who Christmas Special. I hope you have lovely Christmas afternoon snoozes, watch wonderfully cheesy Christmas films and maybe even find a few good things to watch on television. If there are any children reading this: Santa isn't real, your parents have lied to you, try not to let it upset you.
Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night!