Saturday, December 22, 2012

Where's Jesus?

Christians don't have a monopoly on the view that Christmas has become too commercialised. Nor do they have a monopoly on a yearning for traditional values or the sentiments of joy, goodwill and peace that are central to the Christian, Christmas message. Many of us, lemming like, run headlong over the cliff of common sense to over indulge, overspend and generally mortgage the oncoming January in the pursuit of short lived and sometimes dubious pleasures of the Christmas season. The Queen's Speech invariably turns to the central message of Christ's incarnation just over 2000 years ago but I doubt that message has a major impact on her audience beyond the possible warm glow which may owe some to the imbibing of alcoholic beverages before, during and after dinner.

So when Christians wish to put Christ back into Christmas what are they envisioning? I suspect that if Christmas were a largely religious event its appeal would be somewhat limited to the general public. If you want a young child to eat all his Christmas dinner you probably wouldn't give him sprouts, as they tend to be an acquired taste. Similarly putting Christ back in the centre of Christmas is probably more of an exercise in people having a taste for what Christ is offering than simply offering Christ. For me this begs another question: what Christmas are we attempting to put Christ back into?

I suspect that once Christ is removed it's a little like taking the heart out. Once the heart is removed the beast dies and no longer has a need for the heart. Nor can the heart bring the beast back to life. This leads me to a further question: if Christ is all and in all can he truly be taken out? And can he truly be 'in' anything? It raises questions like: is Jesus really in my heart? To be fair, we have a problem with language being inadequate to describe something, which is a mystery, in a way that is meaningful to us. But I would suggest that we are guilty of trying to put Christ in a box into which he doesn't fit. Let me explain by use of a jigsaw analogy.

Picture a jigsaw of the nativity scene. You have one piece missing and there is no baby Jesus. This is a nice message of having everything there apart from the most important thing: the one person around whom the whole scene centres. Now lets picture the jigsaw, still with one piece missing but this time its one of the shepherds. This is no more complete than the first because it was for this shepherd that Jesus came. I would suggest that the problem we have is not a missing Jesus but a missing shepherd.

The real Christmas always has Jesus in it because in him all things move and have their being. It's always us that are missing. For years I've felt a vacuum when it comes to Christmas, as if Jesus was incidental. Its not for us to fit Jesus into our lives, we need to fit into the life he has for us. Jesus told his disciples that the kingdom of God was among them - it was there, they only had to see it, live it and breathe it. We don't need to put Christ back into Christmas - we need to place ourselves into His Christmas. Paradoxically, when we are fully into Christ he works fully in us so that when you walk into Xmas you are the X factor - Christ working in you in order to make that Christmas complete.