Isn’t it wonderful to be around children at this time of year? The excitement is almost manic, the magic of the lights, decorations, and gifts is contagious, and there’s Santa!
The Santa story may not be factual but there is truth to it. There is truth to the value of excitement, expectation, wonder, and joy; to the life and freedom of imagination, fantasy, and play; to getting lost in wonder and awe and breaking free of our ordinary lives for a while. These things bring such vibrancy into our lives.
The same insights apply to the story of Christ’s birth. The real magic of Christmas is found not in whether it actually happened, and not in the historic events that inform the biblical narrative. The power is in the mythology, the meaning of Christmas.
WHAT CHRISTMAS MEANS
John Shelby Spong points out that there are lots of added elements in our popular version of the Christmas story. The Bible actually says nothing of multiple inns, stables, or animals.
But, when we look at what is there, a story of wonder and possibility emerges.
- Luke 1:46-55 is Mary’s song, the Magnifcat. She celebrates God’s awareness of an unimportant girl like her, and of the poor and marginalised of the world.
- The VIPs of the day were completely unaware of Jesus’ birth.
- Those who were aware were social-outcast shepherds, and foreign sorcerers—legally worthy of death by stoning.
- When Mary and Joseph arrived in Bethlehem they would have been welcomed into a relative’s home, even though the guest room (not inn) was already occupied. Which makes this is a story about the miracle of hospitality.
- The gifts given by the magi, and the theme of God’s generosity to humanity in the birth of Christ, speak of the power of a generous spirit.
WHAT THE CHRISTMAS STORY MEANS FOR US
These features of the Christmas story invite us into so many life-giving experiences.
- Like Mary, we know what matters is not our importance but our willingness to give birth to hope, joy, and love in our own lives.
- The truly significant happenings in our world are not done by VIPs. The world is actually changed by small acts of kindness, awareness, and welcoming of the other, done by ordinary people.
- We all have shepherds and sorcerers within us that we struggle to accept. We have the unclean, socially dubious parts of our nature that we hide. And we have people around us who are hard to welcome and include. But, Christmas invites us to embrace all these “others” within and around us.
- Which means that hospitality remains an incredibly powerful force for good in our world.
- And a generous spirit can make the world a drastically more compassionate place, even in the face of so much greed and stinginess.
LIVING CHRISTMAS THROUGH THE YEAR
Perhaps we can allow ourselves at least a little of the wonder, excitement, expectation, and joy that our children experience. Perhaps Christmas can be more than an event or an ancient fairy tale. Perhaps it can be a lived reality that overflows into our lives and relationships throughout the year.
What would it mean to rethink Christmas for you? Leave your thoughts in the comments below:
- What gifts do you have in yourself to offer your world? How does your availability, more than your importance, make these gifts significant?
- What parts of yourself do you feel should be hidden? How can the welcome of the shepherds and magi encourage you to be more welcoming of those parts of yourself?
- How can you extend hospitality and generosity of spirit to others, especially those who are most difficult to welcome?
Over to you!
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