Keeping it simple this Christmas

We’ve slipped an owl into our Christmas tree. Not a real one of course. That would be too much work… and cruel. But it looks cute, peeping out between the fairy lights and the baubles. Owls don’t have anything to do with Christmas, needless to say. But thinking about it, neither do robins, doves nor pigeons. And to be strictly honest we must acknowledge that camels and donkeys don’t appear in the Bible accounts either. In fact the list goes on. You will find no mention of fir trees, holly, ivy, mistletoe, turkeys, snowmen, crackers, cards or tinsel. Most of that was invented in fairly recent times. Indeed, if you go back to medieval days you’ll discover that Christmas was a short festival with special food, plenty to drink, catchy music and a special church service or two. “Ah, if it could only be that simple again!” I hear you say. I sympathise. It’s all pretty overwhelming and could be much easier. It is, after all, supposed to be a celebration centred on Jesus himself.
The Bible seems to agree. Even in the New Testament the accounts of the circumstances surrounding his amazing and rather strange birth don’t occupy much space. The four writers who tell us the story of Jesus’ life in the gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John spend little time on the birth of Christ. They seem keen to get down to business with their story-telling and focus on Jesus’ adult life, his miracles and teaching, as well as explaining how he came to save us by dying on the cross and rising from the dead. In fact Mark and John’s gospels leave out the story of Jesus’ birth entirely, beginning their accounts when Jesus was around 30 years of age. You might be surprised to know that the early Christians didn’t celebrate Christmas at all. Easter was the big annual event for them.
That’s why many Christians try to keep things simple at this time of year. We organise church services where we recall the events of the first Christmas in song and stories. We make sure that at some point around December 25th we walk into church with expectation and gratitude to give thanks to God for the gift of his son, Jesus. The churches of Leeswood, including Bethania will have open doors several times over the coming weeks for you to come and join us. You will be very welcome.
Peter Cousins, December 2018