With just over a week to go now, I thought I would share some thoughts on Christmas. The commercial hype that surrounds Christmas is in full swing, and has been for a number of weeks. It will inevitably continue afterwards in the form of various Boxing Day sales and the like.
It makes me sad that all the marketing, the busyness, the stress, and the social expectations nowadays seem to smother and shut out what Christmas really means. In recent years I have been making a conscious effort, not always very successfully, to push off the commercialism and reconnect with the quiet, personal meaning of the first Christmas. As a Christian it has always been a significant time for me, but as I have got older I have realised how much I have unwittingly been “sucked in”.
The human participants in first Christmas were all ordinary “working class” people. Mary and Joseph were a young, newly married couple. He was a carpenter and she was a disgraced teenage girl who became pregnant before the official wedding ceremony. The inn keeper was an ordinary guy rushed off his feet by the influx of people caused by the Roman census. The shepherds were going about their usual work tending their flocks. The only socially elevated, wealthy people (the wise men) caught up with proceedings a bit later on.
God chose to enter the world quietly and largely unnoticed at the time. The angels provided the only fanfare when they announced Jesus’s birth to the shepherds, but it was a very small audience. The bustling city of Jerusalem nearby missed the event completely until the wise men passed through. They were all so busy with their “important” lives that they had no time to notice something as ordinary as the birth of just another baby.
Are we the same as the people in Jerusalem? Are we so busy with all the things we have to do and buy that we are missing what is truly special about Christmas? God chose to make the first Christmas an intensely personal family event, with ordinary working people as visitors. Isn’t it time for us to also turn our backs on all the busyness and commercialism, and to focus on the special meaning of family. God’s gift to us is his Son. He wants us to celebrate with him and join his family.