All I want for Christmas is…
What is Christmas all about for you? The family gathering? The presents? The turkey? A walk on Christmas day when you feel like you can’t move, after eating so much?
For me, family and Christmas pudding are two of the key ingredients. Having grown up in Portugal, I had lots of delicacies at Christmas, but I didn’t discover Christmas pudding until I was an adult. There is no going back now!
I suspect we’re ready to say goodbye to 2020, a crazy and difficult year – but it would be great to have something of a normal Christmas before we finish, wouldn’t it?
But of course, we don’t know what things will be like. And because of this, it’s very tempting to either feel glum, or to throw ourselves into the busyness of making alternative plans – online shopping, zoom family gatherings, etc..
However, I think there is a better way to go about this. When we remember the first Christmas, we have these images of blissful nativity scenes, with well behaved animals and a baby Jesus that doesn’t cry. If only nativity scenes could replicate the smells of a stable, then we’d get more of the picture of how messy the whole thing was!
It started with an unplanned and irregular pregnancy. Then, there was that long journey on donkey back, for a very pregnant Mary. Joseph is totally frustrated that he can’t even find a room for the birth. They weren’t in lockdown, but they couldn’t be with family at this most crucial time. The forced journey was brought about by greedy politicians who were making everyone go and register, so they could charge taxes.
And then the first people to come and meet the baby are smelly (and probably dodgy) shepherds.
It doesn’t get messier than this – but this isn’t an accident. This messy birth is the beginning of a life that comes to its climax at the cross, where Jesus took all our mess (also known as sin) on himself, dying on our behalf, so that he could unmess our lives and the whole world.
As we celebrate Christmas in 2020, I invite you to look away from all the mess in and around us, and to look with fresh eyes at the nativity scene, the messy but beautiful start of a new story – a story of God entering the mess, to take it all away, to give you a new life.
So – in church or online – come and join us this Christmas for some festive joy!
John Beswick Pallister