Thursday, 8 November 2012

A Perfect Christmas

"He that saith he abideth in him ought himself also so to walk, even as he walked." (1 John 2: 6).

Do you feel offended by this advertisement?

It was screened during a commercial break on TV the other day while we were watching a show (I can't remember what - perhaps Downton Abbey) and I must confess, when I saw it, I smiled!  It reminded me just a wee bit of what my Christmases are like.  Perhaps not so much the build up, which in our home has a fairly slow and peaceful pace, nor the wind-down afterwards with a glass of wine (we don't drink alcohol in our home) but the busyness of the actual day itself.  Apart from special occasions like birthdays or Easter,   in our home at least, Christmas Day is definitely one of the busiest days of the year in my kitchen.  I seem to spend more time in there than anywhere else, and yes, it can feel like I'm running a restaurant, but I love it!  So when I saw this advertisement my first thought was that it was kind of sweet!
However, there was a short article in our newspaper today, that said that there had been many complaints made on "Twitter" about the advertisement, by people who felt that it was degrading and were offended by the apparent stereotyping that it conveys, which implies that it is the role of a mother to prepare for Christmas, and that the family unit portrayed excluded single parents, or those who were childless.

I found the advert quite heartwarming because it is so unusual today, to see traditional gender roles being portrayed positively by the media.  To me, it reinforced the values that should underpin our culture, values that seem to be getting cast aside more and more in favour of modern alternatives - family units that differ from the traditional married couple with children raised in a conventional home where the father works to provide for the family and the mother's responsibility is for raising the children and keeping the home.  This advertisment seemed to reflect these traditions, and so far from being offended, I felt quite gladdened to see it!

To me, working hard to provide good things for my family to enjoy is a year long commitment and one which I enjoy and feel blessed to be able to do, fulfilling my God given role as a helpmeet and homemaker.  But at Christmas, it is more than just that.  It is about giving - about putting the needs and desires of my family before my own - just as Christ Jesus, who of course is - and should be - at the heart of Christmas, modelled for us.  Unfortunately however, for many people nowadays, Christmas has become a celebration not of giving, but of greed and self indulgence.  It's regarded as the season of excess - of too much food, too much alcohol, too much money spent on too many things that no one really needs or wants.  It's become a hollow charade that never really satisfies - because the heart of Christmas - Jesus - has been removed.  Just as compulsive shoppers, gamblers, drinkers and so on will attest, there will never be enough.  You can buy all the food you can afford, decorate your home until it is groaning at the seams with tinsel, baubles and bells, but if the true meaning of Christmas is removed, it can never really bring the joy, contentment and peace that should be at its heart.  Without Christ, there can be no Christmas.

The media is responsible for so much that is wrong with our world, but at this time of year, it seems to me that all of its ugliness and corruption is crystallised as the shops gear up for their busiest season of all.  The advertisement above is selling a myth - but only because it is impossible, if we are intent on living in a culture that is focussed on the self, to be able to achieve the sort of Christmas that people believe they are entitled to.  Unless we are willing to be unselfish, to put the needs of our family before us, we can't ever hope to have the Christmas that is portrayed on every billboard and TV screen at this time of year.  The true meaning of contentment and joy isn't found inside a beautifully wrapped gift, or a sumptuous dinner table, or an immaculately decorated home that looks as if it came from the pages of a homemaking magazine.   It's found in Jesus - the Word made Flesh, who was born in a humble manger and walked among us.

We can't have it both ways.  If we want the "perfect" Christmas, the ad-man's myth, then we must forget all about what the world tells us to aspire to.  The perfect Christmas can never happen, if we focus on ourselves, and our needs.  The perfect Christmas isn't all about what we have, or how much we spend, or how long we take to prepare.  It's about dying to self - and thus bringing to life, the amazing, bright, and beautiful glory of our Saviour -

"For I through the law am dead to the law, that I might live unto God.
 I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.
I do not frustrate the grace of God: for if righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain." (Galatians 2: 20).

At all times, in all seasons, we must aspire to fulfill the roles that God willed for us, as His children - and to do so graciously.  As wives, mothers, daughters, our role is naturally and foremost, in the home - serving our families, and in so doing, serving our Father in Heaven.  Our inspiration therefore to create the perfect Christmas for our families must come not from TV adverts, or from the material world around us, but from our hearts - hearts that endeavour to serve God, not man.

Santa lives at the North Pole...

Jesus is everywhere.

Santa rides in a sleigh...

Jesus rides on the wind and walks on the water.

Santa comes but once a year...

Jesus is an ever present help.

Santa fills your stockings with goodies...
Jesus supplies all your needs.

Santa comes down your chimney uninvited...
Jesus stands at your door and knocks, and then enters your heart when invited.

You have to wait in line to see Santa...
Jesus is as close as the mention of His name.

Santa lets you sit on his lap...
Jesus lets you rest in His arms.

Santa doesn't know your name, all he can say is "Hi little boy or girl, what's your name?"

Jesus knew our name before we were born. Not only does He know our name, He knows our address too. He knows our history and future and He even knows how many hairs are on our heads.

Santa has a belly like a bowl full of jelly...
Jesus has a heart full of love.

All Santa can offer is "Ho Ho Ho" ...
Jesus offers health, help and hope.

Santa says "You'd better not cry"...
Jesus says "Cast all your cares on me for I care for you."

Santa's little helpers make toys...
Jesus makes new life, mends wounded hearts, repairs broken homes and builds mansions.

Santa may make you chuckle but...
Jesus gives you joy that is your strength.

While Santa puts gifts under your tree...
Jesus became our gift and died on a tree... the cross.

The Reverend James Spellman

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