There is nothing like familiarity to breed avoidance or disconnection, even contempt. The Christmas stories – yes, there are two, one in Matthew and the other in Luke – regularly combined into the one narrative, have the potential of being such an occasion. As I noted in last week’s sermon there is growing cynicism about and rejection of faith as central to our celebrations of Christmas. More likely, in many places the Christian message will be ignored, belittled, ridiculed, and made fun of more than other religions, including Judaism, Islam and Buddhism. Without doubt some of the reasons relate to the posturing of some politicians who claim to be Christian but act to the contrary, and the failures of the institution of the Church to address abuse and violence in its own ranks. The secular, the promotion of materialism by business and commerce, has replaced the holy.
How many of us take seriously the words of the carols we sing? In the lead up to Christmas our letterboxes and emails are filled with junk mail calling us to buy, buy and buy. Many of our streets are decorated with Father Christmas, sleighs, and reindeer along with the new politically correct Holiday symbolism that has begun to appear in some local government areas.
Perhaps this is more particular to Australia, in the southern hemisphere. During a recent London Christmas I discovered that thousands and thousands attend carol services, Midnight mass and other religious gatherings as well as celebrating with family and friends on Christmas Day and the full twelve days of Christmas. The BBC and ITV still have extensive coverage of worship, as do most forms of the print media.
So what about Christmas this year? Sharing times and gifts with family and friends is a must. Place the Christmas Bowl on the table as a reminder to focus on the other. Sing carols, invite those who are alone to share with you. Be bold in offering hospitality. We all contribute to the cynicism and diminishment of the Christian message at this time when we remain silent and spend time with the glitter and tinsel rather than hearing the message of the angels of peace and goodwill to all.