Christmas – Cancel or Celebrate?
Ever felt like cancelling Christmas?
I mean cast your eye around your local shopping mall. Each year, “Christmas” seems to get further and further away from what that first Christmas is all about. No good complaining about it. It is what it is. And on the inside, where we live … I’m not sure if you’ve noticed … it’s becoming more and more difficult to celebrate the awesome meaning of Christmas. So … why not cancel it altogether this year?
Perhaps the reason it’s becoming more difficult to celebrate Christmas in a powerfully moving way, is that our idealised, child-view of Christmas (a happy, exciting time all about presents and the food that mum used to cook and decorations and the smell of a real Christmas tree) is being morphed each year by society’s stylised reinterpretation of Christmas.
It seems that we’ve learned to do, sing, say, smell and eat a whole bunch of things that bear little or no resemblance to that first Christmas.
The Christmas Reality
Mary – pregnant out of wedlock (huuuuuge scandal!!) – and her faithful betrothed Joseph, journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem. Traditionally we have her riding on a donkey, but there’s no mention of that in the Bible.
Whether she walked or rode or (most likely) travelled as part of a caravan for safety, the girl was almost full term. This was a hard, rocky road that they travelled together for a week or more. Uncomfortable. Inconvenient. Even dangerous since Samaria lay between Galilee and Judea.
And then finally … finally they arrive, just to discover that the Sheraton lost the reservation that their travel agent was supposed to have made, and the only place they can find a “room” is in a stable out back.
We city slickers (of which I am one) all to easily forget the stark realities of a stable (trained as we are to see the Nativity through the prism of a children’s pantomime). This isn’t the pantomime version here. The stench of the animals, their urine and their excrement was overpowering. And that manger thing that we sing Christmas carols about was a feed trough, no doubt with animal saliva – years of it – caked on the sides.
Is this the place that any woman would choose to give birth to her child, let alone to the Son of God, the Messiah, the Saviour of the World?
Then and Now – Chalk and Cheese
The glitzier Christmas becomes, it seems to me the harder it is to celebrate it with joy and passion in our hearts. The more lavish the decorations in the mall, the Christmas pantomimes at our churches and the gifts that we give have become, the further we’ve drifted from that draughty, smelly stable in which the Saviour of the world – my Saviour, your Saviour – chose to make His ignominious entrance.
As we consider wistfully our own rocky road towards Christmas each year, perhaps with the failures and the disappointments of the year outweighing the triumphs and the joys, maybe the mistake that we make is in comparing our reality to the razzamatazz thingy that Christmas has become … and drawing the conclusion that whatever life we’re living, whatever Christmas we’re going to be celebrating, it just doesn’t match up to what Christmas should be.
Is that why it’s becoming a little harder each year to celebrate Christmas??
An Alternative Christmas
So if the stylised Christmas we’ve become accustomed to ain’t doing it for us any more, is there an alternative Christmas we can celebrate?
I think there is. It’s the version of Christmas that has the Son of God journeying a rocky road – our rocky road – bumping His way in His mother’s womb towards His first, uncomfortable Christmas. It’s the Christmas that has the Messiah slipping quietly into the world as a bog ordinary person, in a bog ordinary place. The sort of place that you and I – if not physically, then emotionally and spiritually – find ourselves in from time to time. Smelly, uncomfortable … on the fringes of the mainstream.
It seems to me that the only Christmas worth celebrating in our hearts each year is the Christmas that speaks of our Saviour coming to us on our oft-times ignominious, insignificant, unnoticed, unrewarded little journey …
Because the thing that that Christmas tells us, is that He truly understands our journey. Not just because He’s God … but because He’s travelled the road ahead of us. That same rocky road.
And I have to tell you, in my heart – that’s worth celebrating. Quietly. Simply. It’s the only version of Christmas that floods my heart with joy.
But then … I think that’s the way it was always meant to be.