I listened to a radio programme in late November where listeners had to decide whether it was too early to start hearing Christmas songs every day. The presenters had already seen flashing lights on houses, received some Christmas cards and were arguing about whether it was time for them to start belting the classic Christmas numbers across the air waves. “No way; way too early” cried some listeners. “Absolutely, I play them all year round” came the response from one fan.
It got me thinking about why we want to hear those songs. And why many people love Christmas so much whilst others find it so challenging. And why Christmas might be even more significant than usual this year.
One clue might be hidden in the original Christmas story. The story of Mary and Joseph and the Baby Jesus was first written in old books called gospels. It’s at the start of these gospels that we read about the census, angels, a donkey, a manger, the stable, the shepherds, the wise men, a star, presents and a baby. You all know the cast of all the great nativities that parents and children so love in Primary school. I watched three of them in different schools yesterday, all beautifully choreographed, danced, sung and acted, all totally socially distanced, some outside, some inside (although somehow still colder than the arctic because of all the open doors and windows) and all because of my privileged role as the CEO of a MAT with several Primary schools.
At the heart of the nativity, hidden like a baby in a manger, the word gospel simply means Good News. This quirky little story is seen by Christians as good news. Good news because people living in darkness have seen a great light as it says in an even older book. Good news for people who have lost their freedom. Good news for important wise men and seemingly less important shepherds. Put simply, good news for everyone. And boy, does it feel like we need some good news at the moment.
While sadly we can’t control things that happen to us, we can control our responses. No young girl wants to have the kind of conversation that Mary had to have the first Christmas with her partner, let alone with her parents. But she then had the joy of giving birth to the person Christians believe to be the saviour of the world. We too can choose joy and peace this year over negativity and discord. We can choose to find ways to build relationships rather than destroy them. We can choose generosity and forgiveness rather than holding grudges and seeing the worst in the world.
As we listen to the cheesy songs, look at the twinkly lights, watch the nativity plays, and give and receive our presents and cards, let’s choose to receive and embody Good News this Christmas wherever we find ourselves and in spite of the external challenges so many of us face.
CEO LIFE Education Trust