Christmas is coming around again and increasingly is in the conversation of many of us, for a variety of reasons.
For many it is a time of gladness, of opportunity to contact friends of the past. Our lives have moved on and along separate paths, but the memories stay, and Christmas is an opportunity to contact these friends again, passing on news and learning about them too as they respond. Sending Christmas cards can become a chore, but think of what life would be like if we didn’t have these memories of past friends. So I try to spend time with each person as I write the card, and it is a happy time of nostalgia.
For many, Christmas is a worry - so many things needing to be done, provisions to be bought for the big celebration that is Christmas dinner. Strange as it must seem to others at least in my earlier days in the heat of summer, many families still had hot roast turkey dinners for Christmas lunch following the tradition of our forebears in the cold of a European winter. Then there are Christmas presents to be bought, wrapped and placed under the Christmas tree, and as is the custom of many these days, Christmas lights have to be placed outside, decorating the fronts of our houses, almost in competition with neighbours to see who could put up the most spectacular display.
In all of this feverish activity the original meaning of Christmas can easily be lost. Santa Claus is now the main character in our shopping malls, in our decorations, in our stories to little children. I checked with my granddaughters as to what children today thought about Santa Claus visiting all the houses coming down their chimneys when hardly any houses have chimneys today, but they said kindergarten children still draw houses with two windows and one door and a chimney just as we did when we were children.
But in the fever on our activity to prepare for Christmas, we have almost forgotten the real and the original meaning of the day. We do have nativity scenes occasionally, and we do sing carols, but the popular ones today and more Rudolf, the red-nosed reindeer, and We wish you a Merry Christmas which do not even mention the birth of the baby Jesus about 2000 years ago.
In my Christmas letter each year I always try to direct my friends’ attention to the “reason for the season’ as someone had said. It is the birth of Jesus of Nazareth, held by Christians to be the Son of God. A prayer I read a few years ago expresses this I think admirably:
Our prayer for this season on our multi-faith earth
Is that people will see in this tiny child’s birth
What’s beyond all the cradle, and manger and stall.
See the love that’s behind it, a love to enthral
All peoples and races and ages and gender
To lead them to fathom the depth of the splendour
Of God and his purpose, his love and his grace ?
‘Tis a season of blessing for the whole human race.
May you all have a very happy Christmas and may you know God’s blessing in your life, both at Christmas and throughout the coming year.
Rev. Alan Stuart Ex missionary to Korea, Retired Minister, UCA
(02) 8876 1870