A Perfect Christmas?

The glossy magazines for the past couple of months have been full of how to have the perfect Christmas this year, just as they were last year and the year before and the one before that and on and on. Dec-orations, food, presents, colour schemes, wine: all have to be just right.

   But these monthly journals are somewhat contradictory in their approach. Many of them, as well as highlighting what makes the perfect celebration, now also contain articles along the lines of “How not to get stressed at Christmas”; “How to cope with the demands of Christmas” and “Ten tips to avoid festive breakdown”. It seems that the quest for perfection is one that is doomed to fail.

   What is it that most of us actually celebrate during the Christmas season? The magazines suggest that it is family, food, drink, parties, looking good and spending lots of money.

   The real meaning is in the name: Christ – mas. Yet Christ is what often gets missed out of our Christmas preparations as we seek perfection. Someone once said: “Christmas without Christ leaves only M&S”; there’s a lot of truth in that (though I hasten to add I have no particular downer on that national chain of shops).

   The great news is that Christ doesn’t expect perfection from us. For God, Christmas is about love, nothing more and nothing less. God comes into the world to show us what it means to love without boundaries, to love unconditionally.

   By all means have fun on 25th December; let’s enjoy the festivities. But let’s also be honest about what we are really celebrating. Family, friends, gifts, decorations, mince pies, mulled wine are all good things in themselves, but they are not what makes Christmas. What does that is God’s love. If there is no room for Jesus in your celebrations, be honest and call it something different.

   As a Christian, I will be celebrating Christmas, but I could do that without any of the trimmings. It would be a dull occasion but when everything is stripped away what matters is Christ who will be with me whether I’m partying or eating alone.

   My hope is, of course, not that people will stop celebrating this festival, but that they will accept God’s invitation to receive the love sent to the world through Jesus Christ. As Christina Rossetti put it:

Love came down at Christmas,

Love all lovely, love divine;

Love was born at Christmas,

Star and angels gave the sign.

With best wishes

Sarah

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