Christmas in TV adverts is a time to be with smiling family and friends, and to relax in Santa hats, sharing carefully chosen gifts.
And it is tempting to yearn for a ‘safe’ celebration of tinsel, home cooked food and generosity where you don’t have to deal with outsiders or difficult issues; where we can live inside a Christmas advert (like John Lewis or Galeries Lafayette).
But hang on. Christmas is the best time to reach out to people who don’t have families close by, who don’t really like the Christmas schmaltz, or who are lonely and more tethered to their screens, than they are connected to real people.
And that really is the good news the angels bring. Christmas and the whole of our faith is about God reaching out – to people searching for answers like the Magi, or those 2 elderly folks called Anna and Simeon (see Luke 2:21-38); or people at the bottom of the social pile like the shepherds.
Our Christmas should be about more than niceness and soft lighting that hides the muckiness. And I’m speaking as one who loves all sparkle.
It’s interesting that research just out last week by the Barna Group in the USA on being a follower of Jesus, shows that 41% of Christian adults consider their spiritual life to be “entirely private”. Only one third of Christians believe their faith has an “impact on their community”.
In other words, millions of Christians believe that discipleship is a solo affair, with only personal and private implications.
That is NOT the message we get from the first Christmas.
As in the birth and life of Jesus, peaceful, hopeful and life-saving actions (literal and spiritual) should be at the heart of our being, doing and saying.
And we all know that – but it’s important to be reminded and in remembering, to act and be. This Christmas, when the world seems more dangerous than ever, we should reach out not retreat.
Here’s 6 (yes it should be 5 I guess, but No. 6 is important) things you could do this Christmas:
- collect food for a local charity or to give personally to a family that could do with some extra treats
- invite the neighbours in for a Christmas celebration (especially the ones you don’t like that much or know very well)
- Say Happy Christmas, not happy holiday!
- Give generously to a charity that is tackling desperate need. Do without a favourite thing and donate the money to charity.
- Avoid extravagance and enjoy the simple stuff – lots of families I know agree a limit on the cost of each gift
- Send a Christmas card to your local parliamentary representative. Say Thank you, say Happy Christmas and ask her/him to support policies that reach out to the poor and the needy in your community in 2016 because that’s what Christmas is all about.
Have a happy un-safe Christmas!