I’ve noticed that we’re entering the season running up to Christmas. When I was a child I remember Christmas starting when CITV was interrupted by adverts for coke featuring enormous and brightly lit lorries streaming across the country proclaiming that ‘Holidays are coming.’ Now we look out for mince pies.
The one thing that hasn’t changed is that there doesn’t seem to be a build up. We’re either in late summer / early autumn with no Christmas. Or it is full-Christmas and every shop looks like a grotto with fake snow and trees and songs and candy canes until I’m seriously wondering whether I’ve drunk the wrong tea in the morning (I’m looking at you, Garsons Farm). There is nothing in between.
I think that this is a shame. It actually diminishes Christmas. When we strip the celebration of its context, when we feast without fasting, it leads to a shallower rather than a deeper appreciation of the season. To put it another way, every gift has a significance that comes in part from the context in which and into which it is given.
Let me give an illustration. One of the major Christmas traditions in our family is watching the Muppets’ Christmas Carol. Several times. I make no apologies for this; it’s the best adaptation of Dickens by a country mile and in any case, the muppets are awesome. At the end of a Christmas Carol [SPOILER ALERT] Scrooge has a lovely Christmas dinner with Bob Cratchit and his family while they sing a song with muppets as far as the eye can see. On its own it’s a nice scene. But its emotional power, the depth of its meaning, comes from how mean Scrooge is at the beginning and the journey he has been on through the film.
This is true for Christmas as well. Jesus’s birth didn’t come out of nowhere. It is given meaning by the journey that led to it and the yearning and needs of humanity that it was designed to meet. Like any gift, the gift of Christ derives significance in part from the context into which he was given.
To put it another way, if we’re going to appreciate Christmas deeply, to let it move and challenge us, we need to spend some time understanding the depths of what we’re celebrating.
This is what Advent is all about – it is the preparation for Christmas. The season also has a second dimension –not only helps us to prepare ourselves for celebrating the birth of Jesus, it should prompt us to look forward to the day when Jesus returns and brings everything to completion.
Over the next four weeks I’m going to post reflections on a different aspect of advent (hope, love, joy, and peace) to help us to get ready. Later this week I’ll be posting my first advent reflection, considering our desire for hope.
This is part of a series of reflections focussed on preparing for Christmas. If you’re looking for a service to go to during this season, you’re welcome to join us at Hersham Baptist Church.
- Sunday 10th December, 10:30 am family worship.
- Sunday 17th December, 10:30 am, communion.
- Sunday 17th December, 5:30pm, family carol service.
- Sunday 24th December, 10:30am, communion.
- Sunday 24th December, 3:00pm, come and join in nativity.
- Monday 25th December, 10:00am, family Christmas celebration.