Christmas has come and has gone, the day we have spent ages waiting for has now happened, it won’t be long before the turkey is fully consumed and the decorations go back in the box for next year.
It’s almost a ‘reset’ moment for normality to return, soon everything will be back to normal, and it probably won’t be long before Valentine’s Day, Mothers Day and then Easter Eggs start appearing the supermarkets. We are caught sometime on what feels like a bit of a hamster wheel of celebrations of annual events and peak of celebration and then the reset to normality.
Yet I wonder whether this is really what celebrations, especially religious festivals, are meant to be?
Or are they meant to leave us profoundly changed by our regular encounter with them?
Christmas and Easter are not meant to be just ‘tick box’ festivals where we enjoy a few off work and enjoying some extra chocolate –and while I’m at it ought we not be celebrating Pentecost –the birth of the Church with coming of the Holy Spirit- but rather remind us of the bigger story of who we, what life is actually all about.
For the Christian Christmas causes us to focus afresh our reflection and fresh encounter with the radical truth of the miracle of the incarnation, God becoming human, God become one of us, the light of the world stepping down into darkness, heaven literally touching earth and immersing himself amongst the mess of human existence.
A God who is not remote and distant, not sat in a cloud unaffected by pain, misery, grief and suffering, instead one whose body bears the scars of living amongst humanities brokenness.
A message lived out with a backdrop of homelessness, poverty, Roman occupation and ending with genocide and the flight of a refugee family, this is not a sanitised idealised Hollywood world but the real world we all encounter from times to times.
Christianity is a faith that is firmly earthed in reality of life, and understands the human condition better than any other book ever written in human history.
Gods real life encountering our real life, God not just interested in our respectable elements but in our brokenness, failures and unrespectability.
The birth story of Jesus, God as one of us, a High Priest who is not unsympathetic to our weakness, a High Priest who was tested in everyday and was without sin, is the beginning of a story meant to consume us, and write us into a new and greater story where our story and Gods story entwine, both stories harmonising together to write Gods big story in his world, a multifaceted story made person for each of us set where we actually are not waiting gif us to reach a certain level of attainment before the story can start.
The story of Christ Birth is a journey towards Easter, yet one our society resist. I quoted Billy Connerlys grandchild who had a moment of realisation in a nativity that Jesus was to die on the cross when he screamed out “they killed baby Jesus”. A connection that sadly too many people in today’s society haven’t made.
The Easter story, shows us that we have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God, that we are people in need of fixing, people in need of a Saviour. I need Gods forgiveness, and cannot earn it, I am stuck and powerless unless God himself makes the first move. I am stuck in my sin. I come to communion empty handed as the old hymn writer puts it “nothing in my hand I bring, simply to your cross I cling”, although we come empty handed we come before a generous God who paid the price in full “one full, perfect and sufficient, oblation and satisfaction for the sins of the whole world” (Book of Common Prayer).
Yet the Easter story not only is a really uncomfortable mirror to our souls, it also is a story of victory and joy, as this story shows us that sin, suffering, death and hell do not get the last word.
God has spoken, God has intervened in human history, literally making history his story and the resurrection validates the words of Christ who said on the cross as he breathed his last “IT IS FINISHED”.
And Gods words are backed by power from on high as the Risen Christ promised not to leave us as orphans, but to send another, the promised Holy Spirit… A promise that is still on offer today for us, for you and for me. A promise, that he (Christ) in us is greater than he (Satan) that is in the world, a promise that we have the same Holy Spirit that raised Jesus from the grave active in your life and mine.
So, rather than just going through the motions of religious Festivals and other celebrations, let’s be people that allow this story shape and change us. As we inhabit the story of God, and he inhabits our story, we discover anew truth that lead to transformation within our lives and changes us.
To often as Christians we know the story, but remain unchanged by it, we visit rather than inhabit the story of God, Gods story and our stories rarely intertwine but rather run along parol-lines only occasionally converging.
Lets not be written into a story of commercialism, that keeps on turning from one season to the next, that only causes us to spend out money, as ever changing onto the next celebration but leaving us untouched and unchanged.
Don’t let the baby in the manager is moth-balled for next year as the Easter bunny and chocolate eggs begs for your wallets attention, instead let’s be people that live lives living a different better story, one that the world thinks it knows, but needs to be seen lived out and invited into…
The Gospel tells us we are leopards who can change their spots, and holds out a story of hope to world which is literally dying to hear and be apart of.