In the past few weeks lots of people have wished you Happy Christmas and then Happy New Year.
How many people have wished you happy first day back at work? In our culture once the festivities finish the malaise manifests. Workplaces are full of people complaining about being skint and the many dark nights stretching ahead. Soon ‘Blue Monday’ will be upon us, when however unscientific, we are supposed to reach peak festive season comedown with the most depressing day of the year.
The band Blur recorded an album a few years back called ‘Modern life is rubbish’ and self-indulgent or not it strikes a chord that things are supposed to be better than this. On the one hand there are people telling us that things have never been better as life expectancy improves and global poverty reduces, on the other we know we live in a fearful and still massively unfair world and that our daily lives are not generally characterised by carefree serenity.
In the face of this the temptation is just to survive to the next weekend, pay day and holiday, which will take our minds of it all for a little while.
As an alternative, I suggest we take a step back to Christmas to help us deal with the reality of the New Year a bit better. Don’t stop taking the last decorations down, resist the temptation to put that flashing reindeer jumper back on. Please! Instead I want to talk about the baby Jesus stuff some more.
I know for many people, this will be a cause of maximum incredulity. After all it’s just a story isn’t it? And that’s the whole problem for me about Christmas and the hangover that follows. On the whole we don’t believe in it, any more than we believe in Father Christmas. Culturally Jesus gets pushed more and more to the edges of Christmas because Christmas is just an excuse for time off and a knees up. There may be some vague notion that a bloke called Jesus lived but the Christmas story is seen as a fairy tale and people love to pipe up that Christmas used to be a pagan festival anyway.
So Christmas fundamentally isn’t real for most grown up’s. Come the return to dull normality what’s real is that life is often stressful, boring and unfulfilling. What’s real is that you just have to get your head down and get on with it.
But what if the Christmas story was real? What hope and promise could that offer?
What if that Jesus that was born in the Christmas story really had come to save the world? What if the unparalleled combination of spectacle and humility in the Christmas story announced the coming of God to earth – humble enough to come and get stuck in and powerful enough to make a difference?
What if the baby really was the one who had been prophesied for generations who would come to put things right, to oppose the powerful and religious and make a way for every single person to know God?
What if the story endures, not just because it’s a nice fairy tale but because it has been shown in the last 2000 years to radically change the lives of people who grasp it?
What if the point of Christmas is that on a damp Thursday in January when life seems like nothing but a battle that child they called Emmanuel – God with us, really could be with you?
If that was true I’d say that’s worth some thought alongside the diet, the bills and the holiday brochures. If it’s true I’d say it’s worth celebrating all year round.
Happy New Year. Happy Thursday. God is with you.
This article first appeared on www.christiantoday.com