Christmas presents a constant paradox in our community. It is the time in which we celebrate the coming of God into the world and to each one of us, reminding us that we are never alone, yet at the same time it is the time of year that brings a deep sense of heartache and isolation to many in our community. At Christmas we celebrate the birth of Jesus to a family without a home, yet in our celebrations we too easily forget the homeless amongst us. It is a time of celebration, yet for many the pain of loss and other grief echoes strong at Christmas. Joseph and Mary offered the sacrifice of the poor when dedicating Jesus in the temple, yet the focus on Christmas is on how much one can give, or get. And at the end of this year we celebrate the coming of the Prince of Peace in a world torn apart by war and terrorism. Are we truly celebrating Christmas, or anaesthetising ourselves to the realities of the world?
The answer to this question lies in an examination of the circumstances of God’s coming to us in Jesus. He chose to enter the world not in might and in power, but in the most vulnerable human form: a tiny dependent baby. God chose not to enter the world decisively, but questionably – born to an unmarried woman. It would require faith to accept that God came in this guise. He chose not the trappings of wealth, but humble circumstances. He was under attack from an early age, forced to become a refugee in order to preserve life.
How easy it is to disconnect from this historical perspective, as we celebrate with fine food, good company, and generous giving. Are we keeping alive the spirit of Christmas, or the spirit of consumerism? Are we celebrating God’s gift to us in Jesus, or reinforcing our own self-sufficiency?
Our pristine and beautifully decorated trees, the lilting sound of carols and laughter are part of our tradition of celebrating Christmas. Yet we need to find ways to incorporate this ‘darker’ side of Christmas in our community and in our world, that we are enabled to hear the call of Christ in its midst.
Whether it be through setting aside an offering for Baptist World Aid, through inviting a neighbour or friend who would otherwise spend Christmas alone, or through giving of gifts to those who can make no return, we need to find ways of letting this Spirit of Christmas be part of our family and community celebrations.
“Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these... you did it to me”
December 16, 2001