It’s mid-December – which probably means we’ve had enough of this year’s Christmas adverts. The theory is that our beloved supermarkets and department stores spend millions hiring the finest creative brains in the world to squeeze all the sentiment of Christmas into two minutes of intense emotion. This will then have us overflowing with the festive spirit to the point where we can’t help but splurge out on gifts for our families and friends.
Now, of course we want to express love for our nearest and dearest – it’s a beautiful part of Christmas. But if that’s our only focus for the festive season, then we’re actually missing out.
Context is Everything
Within Western society, we often tend to focus on the joy, wonder, beauty, expectation and hope that was brought to us at Christmas in the form of a tiny baby. This is all wonderful, but in doing so, we sometimes fail to appreciate the context in which the hope of the world was born.
Last year the Vatican caused a bit stir when its nativity in St Peter’s Square featured a destitute man, a prisoner and a body being buried. The scene was designed to show Jesus alongside the seven corporal works of mercy. In reality, many were upset by the composition of the scene, but one thing was clear – it placed Christ firmly within the context of the world we live in.
You see, the context of Christ’s birth is not a coincidence; it’s of great significance.
It’s so important in fact, that the writers of the Gospels take time to draw our attention to the lowliness of the stable in contrast to the lavish palace where the wise men believed a King should have been born.
A Mesmerising Contrast.
When we truly contemplate that the one true hope of the world born in a stable that may have stunk of animal dung, the mesmerising contrast brings us to our knees. Just as a light shines brighter in the darkness, so the hope of the world is illuminated more clearly when set against this backdrop.
Just last week the Peabody Housing Trust reported that more than 100,000 families in the UK will be spending Christmas in poverty in the UK. The irony is, that whilst the first Christmas was characterised by poverty, families in need today feel more and more excluded from the festive season.
If we believe that we have the Holy Spirit in us, then we are here to bring the hope of the world into the dark corners of our communities – to bring love not just to our family and friends, but to those who, like the shepherds who celebrated that first Christmas, are on margins of society.
The Christmas story is truly remarkable in every way, and Jesus invites us not merely to gaze upon the nativity scene, but to play an active part in it.