So after many months of anticipation we finally arrive at the beginning of Advent and the contemplation of the Christmas season. Although the season of Christmas itself doesn’t begin until the 25th, of course, you could be forgiven for thinking that it begins somewhere around September and ends on the 24th. At least that is how it is portrayed by the adverts and marketing that we see around us.
This year’s offerings include a couple of German supermarkets trying to impress us with how British their Christmas offerings are and a British supermarket who seem to feel that the 1914 Christmas truce is a great way to advertise their products. Somewhere along the way I gather there’s a rather cute penguin as well.
If I sound a bit toffee-nosed about all of this I should say that I do realise that this is an important time for retailers and that many people like to buy stuff through the year and spread the cost, but for many this is all there is to Christmas. One of our members went to a Christmas sales conference this year and was told by a senior member of staff, “Let’s face it: we all know what Christmas is really about – presents.” What all of this adds up to is a pale imitation of Christmas that misses almost everything that Christmas is really about. That and the fact that someone’s Christmas nativity will probably now include a penguin somewhere!
Of course, what that famous Christmas truce on the Western Front does remind us is that the generals had to stop their soldiers thinking about the enemy in any way that made them seem human. They certainly didn’t want them to think about what it was that they had in common – parents, wives, children, home lives far away from Flanders’ Field. It was the singing of Silent Night that is supposed to have begun the truce. They shared more than common humanity; many of them shared faith in the same Lord, Jesus Christ.
By the end of the war many had given up on God altogether, believing that a hell on earth such as the Great War disproved God’s existence. The Church in the UK began a steady decline in numbers and influence that continues today. Yet warfare is not the result of God ignoring us but of us ignoring Him. There in 1914 was the opportunity for everyone to listen to a different voice, the voice of the Prince of Peace, as they sang: Stille nacht, heilige nacht; Silent night, holy night.
Today we must be the peacemakers in a world that is disturbed by war and rumours of war. For us as the Church of Jesus Christ we can and must show that Jesus is Prince of Peace. We need to do that in the quality of relationships we enjoy with each other; the way that we care for our neighbours and the way that we work to bring in God’s Kingdom of grace, mercy, peace and justice. We know that this is only possible through Jesus Christ our Lord; the baby in the manger. So we have an amazing message to declare to our friends, families and neighbours. Let’s take every opportunity to declare the truth of Christmas that –
God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. (John 3:16-17).
I wish you all a very Happy Christmas and a Peaceful New Year.