It’s My Party and I’ll Cry if I Want To

church_candles_by_wedamajeI really do feel like crying about it sometimes. It’s the same every year. You’d think I would have got used to it by now. But I haven’t.

I want to celebrate my special day. I want to celebrate with friends and family and anyone else who wants to come along…but so many people want to tell me that actually my special day is not the day I thought it was at all. No. It’s something else. I understand the confusion, I really do, but that doesn’t always ameliorate my frustration when they make out I’m making too much fuss about it.champagne_350x350

I’m talking, of course, about Christmas. The clue is in the name – Christ + mas(s): Christmas is a Christian festival to celebrate the birth of Jesus, God’s Son. And tomorrow, Sunday, is when all over the world the Christian Church begins the countdown  to this special event with the season we call ‘Advent’.

screen-shot-2013-11-08-at-165724Now don’t get me wrong. The way in which we celebrate doesn’t actually matter that much – witness the many different types and styles of celebrations and traditions all over the world. The Christian communities are certainly not sticking to one set pattern. The form doesn’t matter as long as the substance remains. And it is that ‘substance’ that is so often the cause of all my fuss.

Rather than being a Christian celebration with the coming of God amongst us (‘Emmanuel’ , should you wonder why you are singing that at some point this season) I have heard on innumerous occasions that actually Christmas is all about –

a) the children

b) being with family

c) a time for giving

d) a time for indulging and over eating/drinking

e) Santa Claus

or

f),  which is ‘none of the above as it is a totally commercialised endeavour to part us from our cash’.

There is no doubt that each of these, in some way, forms part of the celebration for many people. But that is not the same as being the cause or focus of the occasion. I can imagine myself attending a football match and being witness to some hooliganism. Am I accurate in assuming that violence is at the heart of the game?

Or on a lighter note, following The Great British Bake Off I may notice that the bookshops are stocking more recipe and ‘big name’ cookbooks around baking. Am I accurate in writing off the program as merely a propaganda stunt on behalf of the publishing industry?

creche_figurinesThe list could go on and on…the BBC has a section specially aimed at children called Cbeebies – does that make the whole organisation an outlet for children only? No, of course not!

Yet, that seems to be what has happened with Christmas in the West. I’m overjoyed that so many families and children enjoy sharing in the celebrations. I’m certainly not going to be the one to judge those who use the festival as an excuse to punish their bodies with alcohol and excess eating – or those who are trying to make a living by selling us the things we might choose to use to celebrate at home. All are welcome!

But welcome to a celebration of the birth of Christ. Welcome to share in the good news of peace and goodwill from God to humankind. Welcome to join us and sing the carols, give the gifts and enjoy the feasting and times of fellowship with one another.

Just please don’t try and tell me that I’m celebrating something else.

In closing I’d add that I would have a great deal more time for those who claim that Christianity is a load of silly nonsense if they put their money – and time and effort – where their words are and actually didn’t celebrate Christmas.

It’s a religious festival. If you don’t believe it or don’t like that is your choice. But please don’t come along to my party and tell me to stop making a fuss about its real meaning…

After all, as a Christian, its my party and I can cry if I want to.

 

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Good God, Greggs!

 

skynews-greggs-christmas-sausage-roll_4156505

 

Well, it’s that time again…the Christmas ads come out on T.V. and billboards everywhere, and some of us get all mushy about the over-sentimentalised mush and some of us…get upset.

This year it is the turn of U.K. bakers Greggs. The above image was released as part of their Christmas campaign and has caused a bit of a stir among certain Christian circles. Now you may accuse me of jumping on their wobbly bandwagon but I actually think it is a good advert for Christianity. (Such a thought may, of course, really upset Greggs more than the complaints and mean that they withdraw it, which would be a shame.)

How can I say this is a tasty advert for Christians?

Firstly, it reminds me that at Christmas time we are celebrating the incarnation of God in human form. Ok, not as a sausage roll, I get that, but that God, who is essentially beyond being, took on flesh and blood and became part of the creation. God became a member of the human race. As such Jesus hungered, ate, became tired, thirsty etc. For me, thefunny_christmas_cards122_2048x2048

sausage roll may be a good reminder that God came in humility.

Secondly, there is something so wonderfully mundane about the sausage roll in the crib that reminds Christians of the danger of sanitising the story of Christ’s birth. I don’t know which Bible you are reading but mine has a refugee, homeless family taking a somewhat begrudging offer of questionable hospitality and undergoing the risky business of birth in less than sanitised surroundings.

The baby Jesus, contrary to the carol, did cry, did poo and wee and all those other delightful baby things. If the thought of a sausage roll spoils your view of the ‘classical nativity’ scene I suggest you read the first few chapters of either Luke or Matthew.

Following on from both of these, Christmas is not a one off for Christians. It points forward to the rest of the life of Jesus and, ultimately, to his redemptive death and resurrection some 30 years later. All through his ministry Jesus showed himself not as a ‘mover and shaker’ but as a friend of the poor and the outcast.

I usually try to avoid the bias-ridden question of ‘What would Jesus do or say…?’ in any contemporary situation but I have a feeling that we would be much more likely  to find Jesus hanging around Greggs than, say, a Café Rouge or a five-star restaurant. He lived and travelled with Galileean fishermen who were certainly not considered among the influential of the day.

Lastly, and most importantly, Jesus says in John 6:35 – “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.” Whatever else it is, a sausage roll is food for the human body and the metaphor of Jesus as food for our souls works just as well in a different form.

When we find ourselves full of Christmas fare; our homes full of Christmas ware; and yet we still feel that something is missing from our souls – just maybe we will pass a Greggs window display and be reminded that God has come; God is near; and God wants to fill us with something more than pastry – with his transforming forgiveness, grace and strength this Christmas.

Nice one, Greggs!xmas-humour2

 

 

 

 

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