Ho ho ho and Merry Christmas!
I absolutely love and adore Christmas, I love the tinsel, the tree, the mince pies, the feast, the brussels sprouts, the sparkly multi-coloured lights, the tacky tinny music I hear around me and the endless films repeated over and again.
But I do 'get' what gets up the nose of my good friend from Threads, Katherine. In her post she unpicks the hypocritical sensual overload that we all experience at this time of year, which erupts into our shops sometime around September and rushes with volcanic force into our retinas and eardrums propelling us towards December where like a popped balloon it comes crashing to a halt on December 26th.
However, I have to say that I still LOVE Christmas - and that includes the way in which we celebrate it, with all its sparkle. I love the British panto that no-one else in the whole world understands (and I particularly loved seeing Strictly's Craig Revel Horwood strutting his corset contained stuff this year). I love that my tree does not look cool and does look tacky in every way (much to my daughter's disgust). I love that people want to share food to the point of busting. I love that strangers smile at each other in shops that are heaving because there is a shared experience of Christmas time. No, I do not like the debt or the greed, but that's not necessarily a 'native' part of the British cultural Christmas. And all things have their alter egos. The sparkle is not in essence the alter ego of the 'real' Christmas.
Those of us who can look at our neighbour's jollity as they celebrate Diwali, Chanuka or Eid and smile with joy at the fireworks, the special foods and the presents that mark that time, should not deny the markers that we have for Christmas can be wonderful.
I suspect that the roundabout argument that Christians go through (I love Christmas, I hate Christmas) is simply an indication that we have forgotten how to Feast and Fast. The flat feeling that we have in January is attributed to the total high of Christmas and we can be mistaken for thinking, then, that the Christmas high has been bad somehow.
But Feasting and Fasting have always been part of the human experience and an integral part of what it means to follow God. We know that there are cycles of life where there are joys and sadness, we cannot necessarily have control over when those seasons of life come. But we are also given particular seasons to mark, which remind us that there is goodness in the rhythms we experience. These religious Feasts and Fasts help us to deal with the natural seasons of life that we all experience and over which we do not have control. These Feasts and Fasts teach us the skills we need for those seasons and simply the truth that they exist in human life. We must not avoid the Feast, because we are fearful of the Fast, for the Fast can bring as much joy, if different, as the Feast.
When January comes, enjoy it too. Enjoy the frugality of that time. Enjoy stripping everything back and knowing that God is still there in the plodding normality of life, as God is in the singing, feasting and sparkle of Christmas. But do not avoid the Tinsel, embrace it and let it make you laugh at the cheerful tackiness of the thing.
It is stupidly ordinary, a sparkle in the midst of the dark winter.
Merry Christmas one and all!