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Rewiring Christmas

December 16, 2019

One of the joys (and challenges) of being part of a prayer movement is to try to live out the straplines that we adopt. 24-7 Prayer wants to “revive the Church, and rewire the culture”

As I thought about that line this week I realised that Christmas is the season that most reveals the difference between the culture of the movement, the culture – if you will – of the Kingdom of God, and the prevailing culture of the society we live in. In many ways this is not a surprise; after all it was us – the Christians, who first came in and co-opted the pagan mid-winter festival to be the celebration of the birth of Jesus. It doesn’t take much to peel back the trimmings of Christmas to see the Yule log that burned away the old year, the Christmas tree taken from worship of the trees and much more besides!

This year I have noticed how the new  symbols of Christmas have pushed the story of Jesus being born to the very margins of Christmas. Perhaps they get a mention in the school nativity play, but don’t really have any other part in Christmas. Christmas is, after all about Father Christmas, about presents, good food and indulgence, about family being cosy together, about a break from work and drinking your favourite tipple, about feel good films and feel good music.

But this narrative is a rewiring of the Christian story of Christmas. Perhaps it is time to reclaim the season in a counter cultural way:

Gifts at Christmas are basic, we feel the need to give generously to everyone we know, or even vaguely know; after all it is better to give that receive right? Christmas is a time for sharing? But sadly our gifts are transactional, we do measure what they are worth and either feel we have to respond in exactly like measure, or show our generosity by giving something bigger. It feeds into all our insecurities, and for all our protests, “you really shouldn’t have” we take our identity and value from the gifts given. “You love John more than me, look at how big the gift you gave him is”

It was never designed to be like this. Generosity is about opening our heart to share what we have been given, and it really is “the thought that counts”. let’s begin to rewire Christmas as we give gifts, not to impress or define love and friendship, but because we have hearts that care.

Christmas is a family time. It is about getting together, whatever the cost and difficulty, just to be together. So why are so many people lonely at Christmas? Why do we have to serve the homeless in halls, why do we find it so easy to give to our favourite charity – and so hard to share our Christmas day with our lonely neighbour? Perhaps it is because our emphasis on having the perfect family Christmas is too fragile – the pressure of real need, of real life will break the spell  and demonstrate that we are decorating the outside with extravagant opulence, and neglecting our inner life. We surround ourselves with the feel good, because the world around us (without Jesus) is not good. Maybe we make the outside perfect simply because we can’t bear to look inside at the mess, the fears, the hurt and the, well imperfection really.

If the Christmas story of Jesus, God coming to earth to be with us in our mess and brokenness, means anything (and it does), then surely we should be choosing to re-imagine Christmas as something messy but God filled, rather than some perfect, fragile and oh so temporary.

The way that Christmas has developed as a alcohol filled, season of forced jollity is our response to the inner and outer conflicts, with lives that don’t match up to our neighbours perfect Christmas, to the unceasing call to spend more to make it better, to enforced time spent with people we have less and less in common with and enduring it rather than honestly facing fears, seeking reconciliation and – yes friendship. If we could just finally work out that our value and identity does not come from the perfect experience, of what is on the outside; but from the fact, so wonderfully demonstrated by the God baby yelling in a shit filled stable, that we are loved by our creator – outrageously, recklessly, unconditionally.

let’s begin to rewire Christmas.

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