We all know our current Prime Minister is a unique character, but little did I realise just how much influence he really does exercise! But thanks to the Daily Express, I have discovered that he has even “saved” Christmas by relaxing the rules on families meeting up with each other!
If I’m honest, I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry when I read the headline. In fact, I was reminded of the great Victorian preacher Charles Haddon Spurgeon who once suggested that the Christian gospel needs defending as much as a lion! Both are capable of looking after themselves.
Far from saving Christmas, The Express was simply reinforcing the distorted misunderstanding of what is so prevalent at the moment. Given that, I suppose it could be argued that Christmas does indeed need to be rescued, although not in the way the tabloid was suggesting.
Don’t get me wrong. I can’t wait to spend time with my wider family, and this year is going to prove tough for us all. I am more fortunate than many others too because I don’t live alone and have certainly not been affected by lockdown as badly as some have been. If we have learned anything from this pandemic it has to be the importance of our relationships.
But difficult as it is, we do need to appreciate the importance of being patient. The early church certainly understood that, which is why the apostle John told his friends that he was their brother and companion “in the suffering, the kingdom and the patient endurance that are ours in Jesus”. John was convinced that Jesus would return to earth one day and that meant it was worth “hanging on in there”. This is how we should be reacting to the current ‘Covid’ restrictions too, but with one major difference: we now know a vaccine is just around the corner.
We make so much of Christmas Day, but we easily forget that the observance of the day of Jesus’ birth only came slowly. In fact, the New Testament gives us no clues as to Jesus’ actual birthday. December 25 was a popular Roman holiday that the church ‘Christianized’.
It’s arguable too that the practice of giving gifts has contributed to the view that Christmas is a secular holiday focused on family and friends. Is it any wonder then that Puritans in Old and New England opposed the celebration of Christmas?
I have no desire to ban Christmas of course, but it surely does need rescuing, and as I see it only the Church can really do that. If it is the time when we celebrate the fact that God drew near to us (as our Emmanuel) then we need to follow His example and draw close to those we know are in need. We can do that in spite of ‘Covid’ restrictions too. After all, we have yet to be told that the virus can travel along telephone lines for example.
Most importantly, we must surely ‘get back to basics’. We can best rescue Christmas by grasping every opportunity to persuade our friends and neighbours that it is they that need saving, not the family holiday! After all, it is the reason He was given the name ‘Jesus’.