Wednesday, January 05, 2011

The Twelfth Day Of Christmas

Christmas is for life, not just for Christmas.

This year has been the most low-key Christmas I can remember in ages.

We didn’t send any Christmas cards.  I note on facebook that many friends who normally send cards to friends hadn’t this year; and we received far fewer than usual (from anyone, on facebook or not).  I don’t think this reflects a change in how we communicate – virtual and paper social networking are not mutually exclusive – or a conscious decision – to save on paper waste, or even on the cost of stamps – but a collective somehow just not getting round to it.  If I am honest, the back end of 2010 just took too much emotional energy out of us – nothing dramatic, rather an accumulation of background stuff – and I suspect that this scenario was repeated in homes across the country.

We had a good Christmas – getting to spend some time with relatives, with friends, on our own; though we didn’t get to see everyone we had planned or hoped to see, due to the disruption of the hardest December winter weather for 120 years.  But the most common response we have had when we have been asked “Did you have a good Christmas?” and replied “Yes, we did, thank you” has been “Really?”  Yes, really.  Again, I don’t think this is because people don’t like Christmas – though it is a hard time for those grieving; and expectations and pressures always place additional strain on relationships between family members – but because this year there has been a widespread revising of expectations.

This is in part conscious: some have spent less (time, effort, money) on Christmas, in the face of impending redundancy in the New Year.  It is in part due to the disruption of heavy snow: more spent less because they couldn’t get to the shops as they had planned, and hesitated even buying online out of concern that deliveries wouldn’t get through.  And it is in part subconscious: a collective response to what is being called Austerity Britain – though some have been facing austerity for a while now, and others are still not feeling the bite.

The fortunes (and I am not speaking simply financially) of a country rise and fall.  As in Joseph’s Egypt (except without his forethought), we may be about to experience years of famine after years of plenty.  We may also be entering a cycle of harsher winters.  Things shift, and though it sometimes takes a while for us to catch up, our responses shift too.  Christmas might be low-key for some years to come now.

And that is alright.  Because Christmas is about recognising that God Is With Us:

in the good years and in the bad years; in the feasting and in the fasting; in our celebrations and in our refraining from celebration.

God being with us, our experience is no less authentic for being extravagant or for being austere.  And, God being with us, our experience is a door through which we can enter-in – and invite others to enter-in – into his life-transforming, world-changing presence.

Christmas is for life, not just for Christmas.

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