‘While I was flicking through the daily newspaper as I awaited the brewing of my usual 8:30 am coffee, a colleague of mine struck a provoking conversation with me;
“What’s news, Jo?” he greeted me.
“Ah, you know. Death and drugs spread across the pages.”
“Have you done all your Christmas shopping yet?”
“Um, no. Well, in my head I have but not at the shops. I actually hate-“
“What? Do you hate shopping? He interrupted. “You can’t be a female and hate shopping!”
“Oh! Look at you stereotyping me.” I joked, but not really joked but joked. “I actually hate this time of the year for what it has become,” I explained more seriously.
“What? The shops too busy for you, too packed?” he asked.
“Nah, I hate the culture of consumerism around Christmas. That’s not what Christmas is for!”
Intrigued but sensing where I was headed he asked; “So what is Christmas about then Jo?”
I decided to direct the question back at him. I wanted to keep the conversation from becoming too intense. “Well, what do you say Christmas is for there, Mate?”
“Family, friends.” He responded quite quickly. “– I’m, I’m not religious. I grew up catholic but I’m not religious. Yeah Christmas, I am not religious or anything so yeah?”
“Yeah, Mate neither am I,” I explained. “But Christmas is actually about the birth of Jesus Christ.”
“yeah…” he softly agreed. And at what I believe to be perfect timing, our goofiest colleague walked in and in classic fashion did something hilarious that diffused what was turning into a conversation a little too deep and serious for the workplace kitchen. It was a major moment, nevertheless.
I walked away from that conversation thinking about two big things; the notion of religion and what it has to do with the truth about Christmas and how modern western culture seems to have gone bonkers for the shopping this time of year.
Religion. It’s a big word and I am annoyed with it! When it comes up in conversation it seems to sneak up barriers between people. Things get slightly awkward around this word and its crazy to me how much impact just one word can have. But mostly that effect leaves me feeling sad. Maybe that is just my experience but does anyone else feel the weight of the word, religion? I don’t enjoy this word at all, especially at this time of year. I don’t believe religion has anything to do with Christmas.
Christian. Another big word. For me, Christian is the word I use to describe my faith in Jesus Christ. I believe that the word Christian points to what I believe. For me, religion is something that an individual or group of people practice. I see the word religion as describing what people do. I think that even non ‘spiritual’ things that are repeated and practiced over and over like, swimming, for example, can be seen as being a religious thing. Christian isn’t my religion. So I am not religious, like a lot of people but I don’t think that the truth of Christmas really depends on that.
If I say that I am not religious, Christmas is still about the birth of Jesus Christ. If I state that I am religious. Christmas is still about the birth of Jesus Christ. If I say that I am not a Christian, Christmas is still about the birth of Jesus Christ. If I say that I am a Christian, Christmas is still about the birth of Jesus Christ.
Christmas might mean different things to different people but that does not take away from what Christmas is for. The truth of Christmas is the celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ.
And that’s the big conversation I want to be having right now. I want to talk about words and their meaning and people’s experiences this time of year. I don’t really want to have small talk about whether I have done my Christmas shopping because Christmas is for more than that. I want real talk about the deeps truths of this life. In fact, that’s all I want for Christmas really. To sit and talk about real big things and to not let big words get in the way but to allow our heart to open up bigger and to let love in. That’s what Christmas is for.
Christmas is more than money. It is more than religion. It is for great, miraculous love.
“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And He will be called Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” (Isaiah 9:6)
May we be generous in our ability and courageous in embracing the opportunities to show love to each other right now. Its the most wonderful time of the year.