Inward is the direction of Christmas

And all went to be registered, each to his own town. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the town of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be registered with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child. Luke 2:3-5 (English Standard Version)

 It seems that in this season of Goodwill towards all people there is a deliberate process of withdrawal from people that slowly goes on through Advent. We like Joseph in the passage above end up going back to our home town and family.

The first stage around the start of Advent, early December is the card sending. This is about as close as many of us get to wishing universal goodwill. We send cards to people we know, regardless of whether we have spoken to them, phoned them or been in contact through email or just plain sent a letter. All that matters is that last year they sent you a card, or that you are hoping they will send you one this year. Sending out several hundred Christmas cards is not unknown even in the days before the internet.

Next stage the office party, the Christmas drinks with friends and those you regularly see. Or just wishing people you see a happy Christmas, particularly as it can be quite a busy time  and you end up seeing people you have not seen for a while. Included here is the church carol service, the crib service, the Cristingle service and all the other special services that happen this time of year. Basically the time you spend with people around you.

As you get closer to Christmas you start giving and receiving presents. This diminishes the circle even further, these are people who are special, people who feel close too or people with who you want to share with at this time of year. You are now getting to the people who matter to you.

Finally Christmas arrives and we all go home to our families. At least that is what is supposed to happen and people will travel a long way to be home with their family at Christmas. You are not even really relating to your close friends. Christmas itself is heavily weighted towards spending time with your family and by family people mean blood relatives.

You slowly have been drawing in the only level left is the self.

It really needs some cultural rethinking of Christmas if we are to stop the crises, the rows, the bad practices that mark this time of the year. We have slowly made a focus for the event and the focus is not the Christ child but the individual.

The people who are really being countercultural are those who go an help in the Christmas Shelters, the ones who decide on this date to have some friends around for a meal and the people who open their homes to those beyond their immediate family circle. These people are rebuilding Christmas, they are the light bearers, that give me hope that sometime there will be a celebration of Christmas when there really will be good will towards all people rather than a stress laid on the immediate family and the individual that it cannot really bare.

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