Pause for thought at Christmas

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CHRISTMAS already!

Hardly seems possible, yet here we are in last minute preparation, checking everything’s ready for a bumper celebration.

But what, I often wonder, are we actually celebrating? According to Wikipedia, ‘Christmas is an annual festival commemorating ‘Nativity of Jesus’ the birth of ‘Jesus’ Jesus Christ’ and most other dictionaries and encyclopedia agree, but is that really what we’re celebrating?

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All accounts agree baby Jesus was born in quite squalid conditions. A poor, working-class couple, his parents had to walk from Nazareth to their home of Bethlehem.

With Mary carrying a child conceived out of wedlock, they would have been shunned by society and none of their family wanted them in their home.

The best shelter they could obtain was a shallow cave, shared with farm animals; no privacy; no sanitation; no maternity suite and a stone feeding trough for a cradle; their only visitors, some shepherds from the neighbouring hillside.

It’s a long way from our romanticised perception of the nativity.

It’s even further from our Christmas trees covered in tinsel, baubles and fairy lights. And further still from our parties and dinner tables groaning under the weight of food and drink. Oh yes, those scenes of course existed – commonplace in the Palace where later Herod plotted the destruction of that same infant.

The trouble is because we’ve lost understanding of the reality, so many of us resemble Herod far more than the shepherds, in our gluttony, our partying and in our anxiety to rid ourselves of any claim this child might have over our lives.

For that child is none other than God himself, who deigned to live in this world as servant of all, and through his subsequent death to allow restoration of the relationship between God and humanity.

What better reason for a celebration!

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