I 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.
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’.
Now 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
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?
The 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.