December 2005 Anglican Church Letter
The Christmas letter from keith MacLeod
It's that time of year again! We are counting the shopping days to Christmas (which is now the same as the number of days to Christmas). The urge to give is great - among most of us. Some of us give, in the hope of receiving something back, but I think most parents with small children have most of their pleasure in what they give and the joy that creates.
So Christmas has to be a GOOD THING whether you believe in the Christian message of Christmas or not. It is a time when we allow our more generous feelings to get the better of us, when we allow the mask to slip a little and enjoy fun, simply because it is fun.
I am delighted about Christmas because of the story it tells of God coming down to be with us and to enjoy and not enjoy life as a man among us, taking the knocks and the pleasures equally with us.
But I am also pleased about the commercial success of Christmas - not because of its undoubted occasional sleaziness, its superficial drowning of the real message in its own message, but because that very commercialism has ensured that almost the whole world knows about and, to a greater or lesser degree, celebrates it. If that celebration includes no reference to the Christian message as such, it nonetheless does include reference to a Christian way of life - a life of generosity to others, a life of fun and joy, a life full of singing and dancing and harmless escapades, like staying up too late and eating too many chocolates.
If for every thousand Christians irritated by the cloying commercialism on our TVs and in our shops, there is one person somewhere who seeks to find out what it is all really about, then it is well worth it.
So, I tend not to feel too 'preachy' about what people do at Christmas. In a country notorious (or famous, depending on your point of view) for having given up on religion, it is marvellous to think that every year, virtually everyone gets excited about celebrating the birth of Christ.
We celebrate Christmas, not at the time of year when Jesus was actually born (at least we don't know so), but in midwinter, the early Christians having the good idea of adopting a pagan celebration and converting it. So Yuletide is the old pagan midwinter festival - the time when food was in short supply and the days were short and the nights long. The midwinter festival was a chance to get out some of the best of the food stores and have a feast and cock a snoot at the howling weather before battening down the hatches again and waiting for Spring.
Last Christmas, we all took a bad knock with the news on Boxing Day of the Tsunami disaster. It's been a bad few years in terms of disasters of one sort or terrorising humankind all over the globe.
Let's make this Christmas a time when we draw upon our resources, behave generously and lovingly towards each other and gather around the Yule log and cock a snoot at the evil in the world and praise the Creator in joy and singing. Go to the school Nativity Plays, go to the Carol Concerts in Churches and Halls. Give yourself the best possible chance of being infected.
And while we do all this, inside the hatches we have battened down around our homes, remember all those who have no resources to draw upon, nothing with which to be generous except perhaps a smile or a tear. If you believe in a Creator God, ask him to do what you cannot for those more unfortunate than you - and mean it, or he won't hear you. And tell everyone you come into contact with the Good News of Christmas, if not with words then with your behaviour.
Have a truly happy Christmas
Licensed Lay Minister