The video above is a poem by Jennifer Rawson, set to music by Stu Kennedy, filmed and edited by George Gibson. It was made for our church's carol service, after which I gave a talk about Christmas...
There are loads of things that make us feel like Christmas has started: advent calendars, John Lewis trying to make you cry, Christmas songs on the radio and in the shops, watching Elf, The Snowman, It’s A Wonderful Life, or whatever seasonal viewing is your favourite, wearing a festive jumper and/or a cracker crown… The list is seemingly endless of annual moments that make us think, “It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas.”
The irony of Christmas being associated with so many repetitive things, which make us think about it in terms of ‘here it comes again,’ is that the event itself wasn’t at all like that. Rather than being regular and familiar, it was a dramatic intervention:
“The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them light has shone... For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end...” (Isaiah 9:2,6-7)Whenever in the year Jesus of Nazareth was actually born, it makes plenty of sense to celebrate His birth in the depths of winter, when we feel like we’re dwelling in a land of deep darkness. But we could be in South Africa or Australia in 30-degree heat and the description of our world as “dark” would still ring true. Any summary of the year’s news that you see will be full of darkness, and if this is true for us as a species, it’s also true for us as individuals. Christmas is also often the time of year when many of us audit how we’re doing – and unless you had a very low standard to start with, or you have very high self-esteem, the likelihood is that your assessment will be along the lines of “could do better.”
Now it might seem that by dwelling on this, I have strayed far from the Spirit of Christmas. Surely it’s a time for being as cheerful as possible, for forgetting all the mess. But actually the true spirit of Christmas is to recognise the mess, acknowledge the wrongdoing, see the darkness, and cry out for light.
This is why Christians celebrate: Not because they need cheering up but because healing came to our brokenness, hope came to despair, light came to darkness: Jesus came to us. “Light of the World” is one of His many titles. The four descriptions we just read tell us something about what this means:
- Wonderful Counsellor. He is with us, guiding us when we don’t know the way, giving us wisdom when we’re desperate and don’t know what to do.
- Mighty God. He is strong when we are weak, and as both God and man, He bridges the divide that our wrongdoing has caused between us and Him.
- Everlasting Father. He is faithful and loving unlike any other relationship we’ve known.
- Prince of Peace. He is secure, even when everything seems chaotic, and He shares His assurance with us, and will one day bring an end to all conflict.
That is has been my daily experience this year, and for many other people I know. He has forgiven us, reconciled us to Himself and each other. He guides us with His counsel, strengthens us with His power, loves us faithfully, brings peace to our chaos. And that’s why we love to celebrate Christmas again and again: because it reminds us that God has come into our lives and stayed with us. This is the wonderful offer He makes to everyone.