The Vicar writes...
For the last few years, the run up to Christmas has often been accompanied by media stories of political correctness gone mad!
There have been reports of Christmas Cribs being banned from shops and other public places for fear of offending those of other faiths or no faith. Some local Councils have replaced Christmas with a Winterfest. In many schools across the UK the traditional Nativity Play has been replaced by concerts featuring Santa Claus and Frosty the Snowman.
With all these stories circulating in the media it's tempting to come to the conclusion that there is an anti Church secular agenda out there intent on destroying the traditional Christmas.
All this, of course, is nothing new. For if we read the Gospel accounts of the birth of Christ then we discover that the mystery of the incarnation takes place against the backdrop of hostility and indifference. There is no room at the inn for the Saviour of the world. He is born to a displaced family who have to seek asylum in a far off country to escape the wrath of a violent despot. Among the few who see the glory of the incarnation are lowly shepherds and gift bearing new age types from the east.
We reflect on this in the Gospel reading appointed on Christmas Day from the prologue of St. John [v.1-14]. Those who come to Church in festive spirit and expecting to hear the age old story of the stable and the manger, the shepherds and the angels, hear instead, 'In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God.' The evangelist John deliberately strips away all the traditional elements of the Christmas story. He does this, not to be politically correct or to spare the religious sensitivities of others, but to lead us to the awesome reality of the incarnation, 'The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.'
John had taken the Blessed Virgin Mary into his own home. He would have known, better than many others, about the story of Jesus' birth. But rather than give us the details, as Matthew and Luke do, he puts the incarnation into its eternal and cosmic setting. As he celebrates 'the Word made flesh' he notes how God's gift of the Saviour is met with indifference 'he came to his own home and his own did not receive him.' So taking Christ out of Christmas is really nothing that new!
Every December we do all that we can at All Saints and Norton Mission to reach out to the wider community - to put Christ back into 'X'mas. We do this through our hosting of School and Community Carol Services, the popular Nativity Play and Christingle and the Norton Village Carols. In the weeks leading up to the big day itself, well over a thousand people come through the Church doors. Opening up our buildings in such a way is sometimes hard work, but it is often much appreciated by the wider community. The fact that so many come, especially to the Vigil Mass of Christmas Eve, is testimony to the way that the life changing truth and mystery of Christmas still has the power to touch the hearts of many, even in a largely secular society.
When we hear reports of cribs being banned from public places, people wishing each other 'Happy Holidays' rather than 'Happy Christmas', when we see what a materialistic obsessed culture is doing to one of the great festivals of the Church, it's tempting as Christians to hold up our hands and cry 'Bah humbug' to it all.
I think that, at All Saints and Norton, we avoid that temptation. We joyfully celebrate the Feast; we welcome others in to see 'this great thing which has come to pass'; we share the mystery of 'The Word made flesh'; we see, in the incarnation, hope for our fallen world. It's what Christians dare to celebrate at the Festival we will always call by its proper name, Christmas!
My family and I wish you a blessed and Happy Christmas. Nadolig Llawen!