Avril at Romsey

… and Lancefield and Riddells Creek and Mount Macedon

Why celebrate Christmas in July?

My sister asked me on Friday what I was doing this weekend. When I told her that I was celebrating Christmas in July, she suggested that I was crazy. She knows how incredibly busy I am at Christmas time; why would I want to voluntarily celebrate Christmas twice?

But the thing is, it’s actually very hard to celebrate Christmas at Christmas time.

When we celebrate Christmas in December, we’re part of a cultural celebration that perceives Christmas in particular ways. The Jesuit Andy Hamilton, who was one of my teachers at Theological College, describes it like this: “The crib is always clean, the animals do not smell, the babies always smile, people are happy buying and receiving presents, and families love coming together on Christmas Day. Christmas is for perfect and lucky people. These are the people whom God loves and favours. Their perfect enjoyment of Christmas must make other people feel weak and left out; even God does not really love them.”[1]

We know that this isn’t true, but this is the way Christmas is often presented in December. The message of this Christmas is that families are very important, as are friends to whom we can give presents that express our love and affection. The message is that having a safe home in which to gather, an abundance of food, and money to spend, are blessings. And they are! I don’t want to suggest that families, friends, safety, food and money aren’t blessings. But if that’s all Christmas means to us, it’s pretty superficial. It reminds me of what Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount: “For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax-collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers and sisters, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same?”[2] If we use Christmas to celebrate family and friends and food and favours, what more does Christmas mean to us that to the pagans who celebrated the Winter Solstice or Saturnalia and from whom we ‘borrowed’ December the 25th?

Luke’s story of Jesus’ birth isn’t about the gathering of the extended family. It’s about a young couple forced to travel away from their home at the command of an occupying power. It’s not about gathering in the safety of a beautifully prepared home. It’s about a homeless couple who can’t even find room in an inn. It’s not about people bringing expensive and carefully chosen presents. The first people who greet the baby are shepherds, poor outcasts, disreputable dregs of society.

It is about the miracle of God’s presence amongst us. Christmas is a time of good news of great joy for all people: the arrival of the Saviour, the Messiah, the Lord, in a poor baby wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger. It’s a time when the Glory of God is seen and peace is brought to earth.

Christmas is a time to celebrate the Incarnation, the Christian belief that God is with us in the flesh, in the ordinary, in the real world where we live. The God in whom we live and move and have our being is the one who has entered the world and so glorifies the world. The message of the Incarnation is that God does not despise the world; God loves the world, including us in all our fleshly humanity. This is something to be celebrated every day of the year, not just on the 25th of December.

There is one reason to enjoy the cultural celebration of Christmas in December. In the midst of all the Santas and end-of-year parties and ads that suggest a new car might be a good present for a loved one, there is also the reminder that not everyone in the community is happy, healthy, prosperous and surrounded by family and friends. Christmas is a time when giving to charities goes up, as people take the time to think of others. That’s a very good thing! And it’s another way that we can celebrate Christmas every day.

So, why celebrate Christmas in July? Because celebrating Christmas in July reminds us of what Christmas is really about; and because those real meanings of Christmas, God’s presence with us and the call to care for others, can be celebrated every single day of the year.

[1] The Friendly Guide to Jesus, p. 19.

[2] Matthew 5:46-7.


July 24, 2011 - Posted by | Ministry | ,

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