A View From The Vicarage, December 2016
“Two young boys were spending the night at their grandparents’ house, the week before Christmas. At bedtime, as the two boys knelt beside their beds to say their prayers, the younger one began praying at the top of his voice: “I pray for a new bicycle, I pray for a new Nintendo PS2, I pray for a new smartphone!”
His older brother leaned over and nudged the younger boy and said, “why are you shouting your prayers? God isn’t deaf.” To which the little brother replied, “No, but Grandma is!”
(From A Bundle of Laughs, J. John & Mark Stibble, Monarch Books. Adapted)
I wonder what, like that small boy, you hope and pray for as Christmas approaches, after all, our television screens and other media are full of glossy inducements to buy this, that and the other for this person, that one and the other to ensure a perfect Christmas but in reality to swell the coffers of various companies.
For a great many people this intrusive commercialisation has demeaned the value of Christmas.
Yet, despite all of that the essential meaning and nature of this most precious and beautiful of seasons remains unaltered and unalterable. It seems to me, that as is the case of that story with which I began Christmas is about family, whether you thing about in religious or entirely secular terms. Even those families who wouldn’t consider celebrating the true meaning of Christmas believe that it’s vitally important on this one moment in the year to be together as a family renewing and rewiring bonds of kinship which may well fray throughout the rest of the year.
At the heart of Christmas, of course, is a remarkable but also very ordinary family. According to the Gospels of both Luke and Matthew, they’re not simply a family but also a refugee family. Luke tells us that they’d journeyed from their home town to fulfil legal requirements while Matthew tells us that after Jesus’ birth they had to escape persecution by travelling to Egypt. This is not just, therefore, a very beautiful and ancient story it also has a remarkable contemporary resonance. Very few of those who witnessed the plight of this particular family had any idea at all of quite how remarkable this very ordinary seeming refugee family truly were: and that is surely equally true of you and me as we witness the appalling plight of so many other families today.
In that child born in Bethlehem, so long ago, God began the process of changing humanity for the better. The Christ Child who is and must be the centre of any authentic celebration of Christmas reminds us that Christmas is about changing attitudes and changing minds to change lives.
The real value of Christmas is surely not about a day or two of celebration but more about the impact that has upon the way that we live our lives. The refugee Christ Child calls us to reach out in love and friendship to all people because through him all people are members of one family and Christ is brother to everybody, everywhere in every place.
I pray that you will truly enjoy your Christmas celebrations and that the spirit of Christmas will remain with you and all of your families throughout the years ahead.
Jean joins with me, to wish you a happy, blessed and joyful Christmas and God’s most abundant blessings throughout 2017 and beyond.