This year, Christmas was in the air even before Hallowe’en had ended, writes Rev. David Latimer.
Jesus may be the reason for the season but, more than ever, He’s facing stiff competition from retailers who crave our attention and seek our money.
The decorations are up and our streets are ablaze with white lights, coloured lights and flashing lights. We seem to have been at it for ages.
Somewhere in the middle of the whole fairy light festooned smugfest, we find time for a school nativity play and a candle-lit carol service.
By attending these, we get ourselves onto well worn paths and are reminded of a family who, like any other, was not without the odd bend and bump.
Well, how else would you explain a surprise teenage pregnancy, an unexpected journey that just had to be made and a complete mix-up in hotel accommodation?
Centuries later, we relate
to this story because it’s similar to our own life experiences which are punctuated by all sorts of twists and turns.
The Biblical story, however, includes a few features that mark it out as being different.
The skies, for instance, are torn open by Heavenly messengers who summon a group of random sheep farmers to a Bethlehem stable.
Then there’s the mysterious star that triggers a pilgrimage by Oriental astrologers who astonishingly arrive to kneel in the very same place,where humble shepherds had earlier knelt.
Something is happening in this story that amazingly breaks through cultural boundaries and crosses over regional borders.
Erstwhile strangers, such as lowly shepherds from the hills and influential wise men from the East, are brought together to recognise their shared humanity. That kind of thing just didn’t ordinarily happen.
The story of the baby in the manger, I must admit, has got wrapped up in the fancy dress of Christmas as it has travelled through the ages.
Moreover, in our clever and sophisticated world, it’s not easy to figure out the relevance of a baby born centuries ago in the Middle East. Yet, square in the middle of this lovely old Biblical story, which essentially, is an account of God’s birth as a human being, a timeless God falls in love with a world longing for release from sin and death.
In a school nativity show, a young boy was chosen to play the innkeeper. His part was simply to tell Mary and Joseph there was no room for them in the inn. On the night of the big event, the young boy stood on the stage, looked into the faces of the audience, froze in fear, then smiled and announced: ‘I’m not supposed to say this, but come on in anyway.’
In the midst of all the hype and hysteria that’s associated with Christmas, as we now celebrate it, I’m inclined to believe we should all do as that young boy in the school nativity did and say to Christ this Christmas: “Come on in anyway.”