For many of us, our days and nights are quickly becoming consumed with Christmas shopping, elevator music version of carols and songs that may not have been that good to start with. Christmas services, family dinners, gift exchanges and the ongoing advertising that seems to have once again, started earlier than ever.
A friend and I are engaged in healthy discussion at present – because I love Christmas, and the opportunity it offers to talk about the wonder of the miraculous in the everyday. He is not such a fan of Christmas, at least, the over-commercialised and sanitised version the Church is at times guilty of presenting.
He raises his argument thus: "The significance of the birth of Jesus is tragically overemphasised in the scheme of things. What is so much more important about his birth than the 'sermon on the mount'? Isn't it strange that we celebrate the innocuous and safe 'baby', the powerless and weak, the unvocal and entirely mysterious infant version of Jesus."
It's true, you see. All over the nation and across the Western world, Christmas services will be slick and professional, re-telling the story with video, drama, lighting, glowsticks and all that jazz. But is it possible they run the risk of placing too much importance on what has become largely a cultural celebration? Is it possible that Christmas has become mostly about reconnecting and celebrating those we are in relationship (familial or otherwise) with. It's to be encouraged, but it has little to do with the miracle birth or the life that follows it.
In fact, there's little bearing on the incarnation of Jesus in the depiction of wise men or shepherds in the field. What's the real meaning of Christmas? I'll be bold. to make a point of connecting with all the people in your relationship gamut.
For the majority of us, it is all about our life and times, and very little to do with our birth or death that makes our existence meaningful. Birth and death cannot be separate from the other, and the timeline between the two has as much significance as the events at either end. Perhaps it's true, we've begun to celebrate the miraculous birth without a watchful eye to the life and death that follow.
However, I do think that people need to be reminded of the miracle. It's good to inject the cynical world we live in with that kind of wonder again. The point at which God enters the Human Timeline in human skin does bear significant weight for the rest of the story. A well-crafted narrative relies and builds on a clever introduction.
Which is that the Life (His Life) becomes the ultimate tension between two events equally important in the landscape of Humanity's relationship with God. In his birth and death he is equally Divine and full of human mess of blood and flesh. That must be celebrated, and ought to be. It's neither His Birth, His Death or His Life alone that carries significance, but the whole story. We ought to seek to celebrate each appropriately.
And regards the weak baby Jesus?
There's something wrong with my generation, and with the generation before me, and it was probably the same thing wrong with the generation before that.. We all seek and strive to somehow take care of ourselves. I think for a lot of us, the fragility of a Saviour born into a 3kg flesh and bones skinbag, utterly dependant on the humans around him to sustain and keep him is a lot scarier than a strong grown Jesus who could speak wisdom and perform miracles.
Society has figured out ways of dealing with that grown Jesus. They have called him Wise Teacher, and other such things. But they have never figured out what to do with the Babe he was born as, or the teenage mother that he came from.
And maybe that's why we have to keep celebrating the Advent with passion and energy and maybe even Wise Men and Shepherds in the stable simultaneously.. because people need to be reminded that there are things in life still to be figured out, mysteries still revealing themselves. There are still entry points for God to enter into those human lives that have not yet discovered him.
Embrace Christmas for all of its possibilities, don't do away with it for its faults. It's another opportunity to tell the story, and every story needs a good beginning.
This essay was originally published on www.tashmcgill.com.
Tash McGill is a professional writer and communications consultant who has been involved in youth ministry for 15 years, working in local churches as a volunteer and bi-vocational youth pastor. She is passionate about adolescent development, community formation and hospitality.
Tash McGill's previous articles may be viewed at www.pressserviceinternational.org/tash-mcgill.html