Monday, 24 December 2012

The Christmas Message

   Well, a very merry Christmas to you all my friends! As I look out onto the Welsh countryside, with low fog clouding the hills and a steady drizzle sitting over us, the traditional 'Christmas spirit' is not as overwhelming as in previous years. Instead, however, I'm actually truly excited about the 'truth' of Christmas. Yup, the 'Jesus' bit of it. Yes, really.

Tomorrow will, I'm sure, be fun. There's great TV planned (YES to the Downton Christmas special), of course I am excited by presents, the food, and simply being with my family will be so special. But without the whole Jesus bit of it, it's not much more than a slightly more special day.

          The hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight

After a year actually pretty full of fears AND hopes, I can testify to this truth. Our hopes and our fears have always been so far beyond ourselves to solve. We can't solve our selfishness, our yearning for more to life than we see, our fear of death, our loneliness, our sorrows, or the way we have hurt others. These things are not within our control or our remit to fix. The only one who could.... was Him.

So yeah, Christmas is celebrating Jesus coming to earth as a baby. But let's not get too overly wrapped up in the cutesy baby, 'away in a manger' stylee. This is GOD in FLESH.

And isn't it beautiful, exciting, mind-blowing, that in the huge weakness and vulnerability that you and I may have experienced this year, this is how God chooses to come - weak, dependent, vulnerable. This IS good news for people like me. He came to those, like me, who were hopeless and in Himself brought hope that change is possible; restoration of relationships and redemption of brokenness is truly possible. 

What better news could there be on a drizzly Christmas eve, that once the paper and the trees have been disposed of for yet another year, and we have happily said goodbye to Slade's timeless reminder of all that is bad about the festive season, that Jesus came for people like us? He came not to bring us the warm fuzzy feeling, but to bring hope and change when the world is falling. I can't think of any better news.

Wednesday, 5 December 2012

No, it's Not Beginning to Look A Lot Like Christmas

   Firstly, a disclaimer: I am very much not a Scrooge. I LOVE Christmas! I'm beginning to get excited about it and very much looking forward to heading home to the countryside for a proper break.


Surely I'm not the only one who thinks it is, at best, ridiculous, that some shops have been playing Christmas music already for two weeks?

I'm already tired of hearing the canned jingles of the same three Christmas songs repeated again and again, and am now convinced that such torture could turn Father Christmas himself into a Grinch.
I don't know how Sales Assistants cope.

Yes, I'm all for a bit of festive merriment, but c'mon: it's the frikkin' 5TH DECEMBER! We still have 20 whole days to go before we actually celebrate this. I don't want Christmas songs playing in every shop I walk into between now and then!

To be fair, I'm sick of Mariah's 'All I want for Christmas....' before we're five seconds in (the irony of playing this in a shop selling perfume, diamonds, jewellery and all the other things she wants is apparently lost on the shop management).
  I don't want to hear Chris Ree's 'Driving Home for Christmas' (which, by the way, I love) on the 5th December! The only people 'driving home for Christmas' today are students.
Or, people who are driving from here to Australia for Christmas. But other than them, my argument still stands.

I know it's a much bemoaned fact but playing Christmas songs - more than that, all the frivolities of Christmas, from the moment we hit December - are nothing short of ridiculous. I've been putting off getting the Christmas tree - if you get it on December 1st, surely it's well and truly dead by the time we're meant to take it down on January 6th? And a withering, brown Christmas tree can arguably be a metaphor for all the festivities: exciting, but very temporary and with insufficient substance to last the 2 months festive season.

Some people make such a big deal about it from mid-November that by the time the 25th rolls around we're even a little bored of Christmas. No wonder the moment Boxing Day is over people are hurrying to get the decorations packed away.

At times like this, when crazy Christmas shoppers on Oxford Street tempt me to chuck my shopping at the nearest stranger, yelling 'I GIVE UP!', I can be truly thankful that there is more to it to this.

Without, y'know, the whole True Meaning of Christmas thing, the whole fiasco just seems like a big excuse to spend money that we don't have on things we don't want, in the name of 'Family' and Bing Crosby ballads and 'feeling Christmassy'. Thank God that even if the turkey's frozen in the middle and your Amazon products don't arrive in time, there is ACTUALLY a reason for joy, love and all those other smushy words people use during the festive season.

When you reflect on the notion that this all came from God choosing to come to earth Himself, to save us from pain, sorrow, but primarily from ourselves and our mess, whether there's a Kindle for me under the tree isn't all that important. The beautiful permanence of this sharply contrasts with the paper hats which will be crumpled by the end of dinner and the tree which will sit outside sadly withering away.