I always enjoy Christmas and most things that go with it. I love the music and I love singing Christmas carols. I love the food, particularly the turkey and the pigs in blankets, and I have soft spot for the much-maligned brussel sprout, although it does need to be cooked right. I love the gathering of the family and I mostly enjoy the games, although there is only so much monopoly you can play. We have quite a wide selection of family games, which keep us all amused. I am keen on word games. And I love getting presents too…who doesn’t like getting presents? Yes, of course Christmas is over-commercialised, but I don’t let that upset me.
One thing that does annoy me, however, is the prevalence of Father Christmas everywhere. An alien dropping down on the local high street could be forgiven for assuming that the Christian faith is based on an elderly fat man with a long white beard wearing a silly red and white costume, with a sack over his shoulder and mindlessly laughing at everything. Not that I have a problem with Father Christmas per se, just that he isn’t what Christmas is all about.
There is a magic about the Christmas story and a sense of wonder, which can be lost because of over-familiarity. Christians believe that God came to earth in the form of a helpless baby and that in itself is extraordinary. However the circumstances of that arrival that are equally amazing. In a very conservative society he was born to a young unmarried mother, in squalid conditions, so undoubtedly he would have been the subject of gossip. He was born in a country that was occupied by a ruthless military power and the king, who was a collaborator with the Romans, set off a massacre of young children in an attempt to kill him. His family had to flee into exile to survive, so Jesus was a refugee. When he was born the religious authorities ignored the signs and missed it altogether. There were only two groups of people who came to visit, one a bunch of shepherds, uneducated and simple peasants, and the other a group of weird foreign travellers, who did not share the Jewish faith and relied on astrology to show them the way.
Surely if you or I were making up the story of the birth of the long-expected Messiah we would put him in a palace, surrounded by fanfares and worshipped with great homage by all the religious leaders and political dignitaries. Despite his lowly background, throughout history Jesus has been expropriated by governments and leaders to keep people in their place, yet he is a character to whom, right from his birth, the marginalised can relate more easily than the ‘respectable’: those of questionable parentage, the homeless, the refugee and asylum-seeker, the foreigner, the uneducated…and of course the children, whom later he welcomes when his disciples try to keep them away, along with the sick and deformed who were rejected by society.
Jesus grew up to become a troublemaker, who tipped the social order on its head. He was a nuisance and a revolutionary whom the religious authorities could not handle and whom the military governor had executed in place of a convicted terrorist and murderer. I would suggest that all this makes him still a highly relevant figure and a rather more interesting and thought-provoking character than Father Christmas! I hope I never lose my sense of wonder over the real Christmas story.
Have a great holiday. And I hope that Santa visits you this Christmas.