Well, that was Christmas. I was really looking forward to the Christmas holiday. As someone who has retired I suppose it’s odd to think of this as a holiday since I’m not off to work on other days. What’s so special about Christmas for me to think of it as a holiday? It’s a time to step out of the normal routine, a time for eating and drinking, a time for Santa Clause and children. It’s about giving presents, peace on earth and goodwill to all men.
Christmas is, for many, a time to travel. Some are heading off to the sun for a winter break while many are heading back to family celebrations. How often have we seen Christmas travel disrupted by problems on the railways or by traffic jams. This Christmas we had Gatwick airport closed by a drone scare and tens of thousands of people had their journeys disrupted. I suppose that could be seen as very similar to that first Christmas when Joseph and Mary had to go on a journey with a baby on the way. They had no accommodation and the baby was born in a stable.
Did Christmas work for you? Me neither. I suspect many people feel a bit like I do, glad when it’s over and back to the routine. So how did I get it wrong? For some people Christmas is a time of crisis. There are homeless people and families struggling to stretch their meagre resources to make a Christmas experience for their children. Most of these parents manage to provide for their children, usually by self-sacrifice. Expectations of Christmas have grown, fuelled by the advertising industry. We are persuaded to buy the latest toy for our children, the expensive jewellery or technology for our loved ones and to provide a Christmas banquet for all the family.
The result can be families at breaking point. Marriage guidance services can tell us of the increase in requests for help in the post-Christmas months. The strain on families often proves just too much. So much for peace and good will.
Businesses were sounding the alarm when sales did not soar as they had hoped before Christmas. They relied on a surge in buying to keep their business alive. Christmas is a big commercial festival. Perhaps that is a clue to what’s going wrong with Christmas. I’m now having to rethink my ideas of Christmas.
I’ve been thinking of Christmas as the birthday of Jesus and we are having a birthday celebration. That’s the story for the children. As an adult, should I be looking for a deeper meaning? The birth of Jesus was God coming to join us, but it was not His decision alone. Mary was asked for her consent for Jesus to be born for us. She gave her consent and the world was changed for ever. Now there is a clue there. God is all powerful and could just decide to put his plan into action but He didn’t. Christmas is not something God imposed on us. Mankind had to agree and cooperate in the plan.
That first Christmas was God making good on his promise to send someone who would change the world. He didn’t intend to set up an international public holiday, he was starting a revolution. Most revolutions are marked by a single event that captures the imagination and triggers the revolt. In France the storming of the Bastille marked the start of the French Revolution. In Russia the storming of the Winter Palace was seen as the start of theirs. These were violent events that were more symbolic than effective. The first Christmas was not violent and was probably the most significant in human history.
Like all revolutions ours never really ends. There are always counter revolutions and attempts to reject the new order. Christ’s revolution is still being opposed by the world. Jesus brought a new way of thinking into the world. He rejected hate and replaced it with love. His command is to love your neighbour and see each other as brothers and sisters rather than enemies. You only have to look at a newspaper to see how that is being rejected all over the world. Perhaps then we can understand why Christianity is under attack all over the world. The Christian revolution is attacked with violence in many parts of the world and is attacked by more subtle means here.
Now I’m seeing Christmas Day as the focal point of our revolution. It’s Christian equivalent of “Remember the Alamo” or a commemoration of the storming of the Bastille. The reason we don’t recognise this is that it’s peaceful revolution. This is a revolution that rejects hate and violence and uses the power of love instead. Christmas is our reminder that the revolution goes on.
Now, if I’m a revolutionary how do I carry on my revolt? I can’t go about attacking those who oppose me because that would be against the revolutionary principles I’m promoting. No, I need to go about my revolution by changing myself. I can’t counteract hate and violence by violent means. I’ll have to rid myself of aggressive attitudes and replace them with love. I need to see others as my brothers and sisters, not enemies. If Christmas is about giving then I need to look at what I give.
The Christmas gifts that count are not scented candles and shiny baubles. The gifts that count are gifts of myself. How ready am I to share what I have and, more importantly, what I am. We’re not good at giving away things we no longer need. (My wife is very good at giving away things she thinks I no longer need.) We are even worse at giving away what we do need. We can easily become a captive of our possessions. So powerful is the advertising industry that we are reluctant to give up things we may never have made use of. Hoarding has become a massive problem for some.
More importantly, we are not so good at sharing ourselves. Every one of us has gifts and talents that we can put to good use in helping others. We might be the person who can always get a car started on a frosty morning or can mind a child while the parent is busy. We must put these talents to good use in our revolution. Just as revolutionaries would attack and dominate their opponents we must love and serve our brothers and sisters.
Perhaps you remember the slogan, “A puppy is not just for Christmas.” That was intended to make people realise that dog ownership was a year round thing. Well perhaps we should adopt the slogan “Christmas is not just for Christmas.” Every day should be my day of peace and goodwill to all mankind. Every day is my opportunity to bring love into other people’s lives. Just like a good revolutionary, I can’t sit about waiting for something to happen. I need to make things happen. I need to make Christ’s revolution real and part of everyone’s life.
If I manage this then I won’t need any New Year’s resolutions this year, I’ll have an all year revolution instead.