Avril at Romsey

… and Lancefield and Riddells Creek and Mount Macedon

Reflection: Is there more to Christmas than Santa?

The story of the Nativity, the birth of the baby Jesus to Mary in Bethlehem, is so familiar. At this time of year it’s everywhere, impossible to avoid – we hear snatches of it in the carols played in shopping centres, and catch glimpses of it in nativity scenes set up in windows or on lawns. It’s become one element of the annual festival of family and food whose imagery includes fake snow, and songs about one-horse open sleighs, and presents, and elves, and signs that say: “Santa stop here”.

If we needed any reminder that Christmas in the twenty-first century isn’t just the Feast of the Nativity, then Harrods selling a one-million dollar Porsche Advent calendar, or the Emirates Palace Hotel in Abu Dhabi decorating the world’s most expensive Christmas tree with diamonds, pearls, emeralds and rubies worth eleven million dollars, would be enough.

It would be easy for this familiarity and this interconnection to breed contempt, or at least indifference. Is the story of the Nativity any more significant than the story of the man in the red suit who magically brings presents to all good children in one night? In 1897 Francis Pharcellus Church wrote in New York’s Sun: “Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus. He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist, and you know that they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy.” That’s not a bad Christmas message, but then how exciting is the day for adults who no longer wake up before dawn to find out what Santa brought them? Is there really any more to Christmas than this?

The very fact that we’ve gathered here this morning to celebrate the Feast of the Nativity answers those questions. Christmas is more than the arrival of Santa with presents; even more than the gathering of family and friends to share food and fellowship; and definitely more than the conspicuous consumption that leads to million dollar advent calendars and multi-million dollar trees. The Incarnation is part of the most exciting, amazing, life-changing story ever told.

Today as we remember the birth of Jesus we rejoice that the Word became flesh and lived among us. We celebrate that in this baby we see the glory of God. That would be scandalous enough; that the Creator of the universe voluntarily became so very weak and vulnerable. But even more scandalous is the particular child whose birth we celebrate. Jesus was born a Jew at a time when Galilee and Judea were under Roman rule. Luke tells us that he was born on the very margins of the city of David, because there was no place for his parents in the inn. In the reading today we hear that the first people to whom the angels announced Jesus’ birth were the shepherds, the lowest of labourers. Tomorrow, we’ll hear Matthew’s story of Herod’s massacre of children in Bethlehem in an attempt to kill the child born king of the Jews. It was only because Jesus’ parents sought refuge in Egypt, after Joseph had been warned in a dream, that Jesus was not among the victims of this massacre.

A child of the poor; born on the margins; in a land under occupation; forced to flee persecution and become a refugee – this is the child whose birth we celebrate today. Because of Jesus, in the faces of the marginalised and the poor, the persecuted and the refugee, we see God. It’s so horribly ironic that Christmas Island houses a detention centre and that asylum seekers have died trying to reach it – because at Christmas we celebrate the coming of God as a baby who himself had to seek asylum.

It’s not only in the poor and the persecuted that we see God. God became human and so in every human being, no matter their race or nationality or religion or gender, we see God. Because of the Incarnation, humanity’s story of birth and growth and life and death has also become God’s story. Emmanuel; God is with us; one of us; among us. The Creator of the cosmos loves us, and we know this because He became human to show us just how much. This is the good news of great joy that Christmas brings all people.

The Nativity story may have been domesticated, the content of carols and cards. But it remains the most unlikely, scandalous tale. It changes everything – because of it we know that God is not some distant creator who set the universe going and then left us to it, but the One who lives with us.

Through the Christian year, in the life of Jesus, we learn more about who the God revealed in Christ is. Today we celebrate the beginning of that journey of discovery, as we rejoice again that God is with us and will never leave us. Amen.


December 28, 2010 - Posted by | Ministry | , , ,

1 Comment »

  1. Thanks, Avril. Glad to see you’re posting here again.

    Comment by PaulW | December 28, 2010 | Reply

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