Does Christmas bombard you with the message that you're not enough? What is the real perfect Christmas? Click To Tweet
There is a big deception around Christmas.
Everywhere you go, it bombards you. Christmas is for celebration. More precisely, Christmas is for celebration of perfection and a feast of consumerism. Those clever adverts say one thing and mean another; they make out that they’re all about family and peace on earth, when they’re more about brand awareness and subtly selling the message that if you buy this thing from their company you will be more complete. Your Christmas will be more wonderful, your children happier, your home more beautiful.
I get sucked into these ads, sometimes. I gaze on the cosy, sparkly scenes and I wish for them. I wish for big, non-arguing family gatherings and perfect days out at Christmas markets in matching Christmas jumpers that don’t get overheated or covered in mud and/or
mulled wine hot chocolate.
The deception, of course, is that Christmas is all about these kinds of things, and more, that it’s down to appearances. Every year, the consumer-fest seems to increase, with mountains of plastic tat in the shops from September onwards, and the associated pressure to buy, buy, buy. Buying makes things better, they seem to say. More stuff, more satisfaction, more Christmas. Every year, I become more and more uncomfortable with this narrative, and my own part in it (stocking tat? Yup – guilty.)
Even the best out of this story still excludes the sad and the lonely and those in pain. The story that Christmas is all about family and friends, and celebrating with them. Celebrating is good, and family and friends are wonderful. But this doesn’t chime with everyone, because not everyone sits within this story. People with no family and few friends. The elderly man who lost his wife last year, has no children and no one around him to care. The woman who was brought up in care, no family to speak of. The single mum, struggling to bring up three young children with no support. The chronically ill middle-aged man, unemployable and struggling on paltry benefits, lost in the universal credit chaos and fearful for a bleak future. Christmas – in this sparkly narrative – doesn’t seem to apply here, does it? It’s just yet another pressure, another agony heaped on their agonising lives.
Perhaps you feel like that, too. Perhaps your life feels less than, or you feel unable to relate it to the Christmas sold all around you. Perhaps you are sad, depression having taken hold and keeping you in a vice grip. Perhaps you’re lonely, feeling like an onlooker walking along a freezing cold street looking through brightly lit windows at warm scenes of celebration inside, like Scrooge in A Christmas Carol. Or maybe you’re a bit like me, living with long-term pain and sickness and so feeling unable to be a part of ‘Christmas’, because you simply feel too tired.
But there’s a glorious truth around Christmas, too, and if we can only dig underneath the deception and unearth the beauty, we might find that which our heart dreams of. We might find radical inclusion and perfect peace.
If we can only dig underneath the deception and unearth the beauty, we might find that which our heart dreams of.
The story is familiar, of course. There are those shepherds and angels, wise ones and a grumpy king. At the centre of it all is a family, but not a family who’ve got it all sorted, or sit in their stunningly decorated home feasting on all the Christmas goodies. They’re a family who much more recall those who are lonely or sick or sad, or struggling. There’s the teenage mum with the scandalous pregnancy, and the bewildered Joseph, coping with all of the nastiness while trying to keep things together and get this baby born safely. Then there’s the stable – or room, really, to be accurate – hardly a place of auspicious beginnings or The Perfect Christmas.
Yet that’s exactly it. It was the perfect Christmas. It was where it started, the beginning of the greatest event in history, the dawn of a new and glorious day. In a dark and dingy room, a baby born in poverty and pain.
It was where it started, the beginning of the greatest event in history, the dawn of a new and glorious day. In a dark and dingy room, a baby born in poverty and pain.
If Christmas celebrated the birth of a king in a palace, with all riches surrounding him and honour given to him, with no fear and pain and dirty shepherds turning up randomly, we might be able to say that Christmas couldn’t be for us. But thank God, the first Christmas showcased God’s intention in history and passionate love for us; a love which wasn’t afraid to get in the mess and start in the dark and the dingy. Thank God, the first Christmas means that we who are in the dark and the dingy now can find hope on the horizon, a light streaming through our darkness, a call to us through our chaos. We have no need of burdening ourselves with perfection and a social media friendly Christmas, for we have something far greater than that. Profoundly more incredible and astonishing and utterly mindblowing: we have a God who got into history and shares in our pain.
And so Christmas is for us.
Thank you, Lord, that you landed in our mess,
That you came in darkness and in pain.
Thank you that you know our agonies and our gloom,
Our loneliness and our fear.
You know it intimately,
You know the deepest parts of us.
Fill us today with your hope
With the tiniest spark of that which you came with
Those 2000 years ago,
Starting the flame which never went out
And never will.
Thank you, dear Lord, that you include us
In your perfect Christmas.