I’m having my annual Christmas rant early this year. Every time I go to my placement church, I see this billboard from the train window, and it makes me angry every time.
I appreciate that the majority in the country are not practicing Christians, and I am not suggesting they should be, but for the sake of the environment, the sustainability of the planet, and the well-being of the 1000s if not millions of people who every year get into huge debt at Christmas, can we not stop the rampant commercialisation? Give home-made gifts, give experiences (a cinema ticket, a trip to the theatre, whatever floats your boat), give a charity present, simply don’t give any presents at all!
Christmas is not all about the presents. It’s about spending time with family, eating special food (and we could all rein that in, myself included); it’s about having a couple of days off work (well most of us!). I know the scrooges and the naysayers will jump in and say that for many people spending time with family is a nightmare, they work harder at Christmas trying to cook the perfect dinner, how do you cope with the vegan and the celiac and all the other food allergies and preferences, that time off from work is overrated, that it will be the same old c**p on TV…
But I suppose that is kind of my point, if we get back to what Christmas really is – a Christian festival, celebrating the Incarnation, maybe we can get something out of it, even those who don’t like Christmas, or don’t believe in Jesus, or will never touch organised religion of any kind with a barge pole (often with good reason based on bad experiences, I get that).
God came and lived as one of us. God came and suffered with us. For all the sweet and sanitised versions of Christmas shoved down our throats, primarily to sell stuff, but also to give little Johnny something to do in the Nativity play, Jesus was born to an unmarried homeless mother, in a stinking, dirty, horrible hovel with smelly animals breathing over him; then some dirty rough single men came to visit (shepherds), followed by some weird strangers bringing gifts that weren’t that useful, then he and his parents had to flee into exile to escape a massacre and become refugees. And what about Mary? We never hear about her suffering, do we? Remember the recent TV drama The Cry with the baby that wouldn’t stop screaming? What if baby Jesus was like that? What if the Messiah had constant colic? But God came and lived among us, because God loves us that much. Now if you don’t believe in God that won’t do much for you, but it does something for me. It does much much more than presents, or food, or carols or even flashing Santas and reindeer socks can do.
So I will be celebrating a mystery, the gift of love with candles and music and tradition, (and mulled wine, mince pies, and definitely flashing Santas) but there won’t be any presents.
If you’d like a non-religious version of this theme, click here: https://www.monbiot.com/2012/12/10/the-gift-of-death/