Christmas is over too quickly. We spend days shopping, then exchange gifts, eat and drink before watching the Boxing Day Test or shop for a bargain or head to the coast or do whatever. Enjoyable, but is that it?
To get perspective on the significance of Christmas, the Church bookends it with 4 weeks of Advent, followed by the 2 weeks of the Christmas Season. While we are watching the cricket, the Church commemorates the Martyrdom of St Stephen (26 December) and then the Slaughter of the Holy Innocents (28 December), sobering counterpoints to an overly sentimentalised and commercialised understanding of Christmas. The baby grows up. The light of Christmas foreshadows the transformation from death to life at Easter.
To engage with Christmas, I encourage you to go to the nativity scene in quiet wonder. Reclaim your lost innocence in the eyes of a baby, so powerless and yet so engaging. The eyes of that baby smile on all of us and on Calvary they will look on both a good and a bad thief. This baby will confound, comfort and challenge and be rejected as too good to be true as he reconciles that which still divides us – life and death, light and dark, heaven and earth, victim and perpetrator, the refugee and the citizen, partisan politicians and the common good, the sick and the healthy, the rich and the unemployed, the loved and the lonely, all of us. Christmas is God’s proclamation that God is with us and loves us not because of who we are or what we do but because God love us. To claim our dignity in Christ and to afford others theirs is to be formed in a healthy community. To deny that dignity through child sexual abuse or any act of unmitigated violence such as the recent shootings in Newtown, Connecticut, does not invalidate the message of Christmas but it does call for a more engaging witness to it in truth and love. One hopes that our Royal Commission into Child Sexual Abuse and the call for gun law reform in the US will enhance the dignity of all.
My hope is that we truly celebrate Christmas, that is, that God is with us. As we do so, might we pause and give thanks for who we are and for this often crazy yet beautiful world to which God in Christ said ‘yes’. The angels got it right: “Peace on earth and goodwill to all” (Luke 2:14), not just for a day but for all and for all time.