Christmas is here once again. So what is it all about? Well of course it is all about frenzied retail consumerism, legions of marauding school children let loose on the street to terrorise innocent citizens, the inhaling of inordinate amounts of food and alcohol and the bombardment of screechy, preachy, tuneless, brainless carols from every store and mall. Oh and Jesus’s birthday.
Whether you believe the story of Jesus or not (though he, as an historical figure has been mentioned by Josephus, dynamo historian and all round scholar and Tacitus, a dazzling – ‘don’t fool with me’ Roman historian and senator) it seems that we all make a big deal out of Jesus’s birth. So for a guy who was apparently born in a stable with the beasties nuzzling him and far, far from home, he has had a big impact.
If you subscribe to the story that he was a miracle man, preacher extraordinaire and had no sin (apart from overindulging in the odd cheeky white) or you believe he was a political agitator, lefty loony banging on about social injustice and equality, dabbling in a bit of herbal medicine on the side and had a messiah complex with a bit of razzle dazzle, there is no doubt that he has supremely challenged us by his breathtakingly radical philosophy.
Love your neighbour? Not in your life…have you seen my neighbour? Do unto others as you would have them do unto you? Only if they’re nice back. Turn the other cheek. Nah ha, especially if the first whack is still stinging. And yet Jesus’s doctrine of obstinate love is consistently compassionate, disarming and profoundly powerful.
And hard. Damned hard. I can’t get through a day without being challenged by the tenets of Christian faith. But I am grateful for it piquing my conscience.
Jesus was possibly born in autumn in about 5BC to a young unwed mother who had made the perilous hundred kilometre journey from Nazareth with her betrothed for the Roman census. A scary star appeared, shepherds rocked up after the birth without a Jaffa, while mysterious Wise Men from the East upped the ante bearing gifts. It was an unusual confluence; and portent of things to come.
The dominant Christmas image is of a babe sleeping contentedly amid a disparate group, a being who at his entry into this world represents peace and unity, but who will galvanise those around him into sometimes wise and sometimes calamitous action.
It is this compelling scene that reminds us of the humility of Christ, his quest for harmony, rejection of worldly grandeur and material wealth. And not a shopping centre in sight.
So peace to all this Christmas – that is what it’s about.