Have you got all your Christmas shopping done? I discovered this year that the good news for really lazy husbands, who can’t even be bothered to wrap a present, is an online ‘gift service’ which has perfected an authentic Neanderthal wrapping service. For an extra £3.95 you can select a wrapping option called “Crap Wrap” … any man (I can only assume it’s for men) can have a present bodged to world-class standards. The company gets the warehouse men and fork-lift-truck-drivers in to make a slapdash-job with crumpled ripped paper and brown parcel tape, and you can even have authentic human hairs stuck in the tape. They guarantee that the wrapping paper will be screwed up before use, and at least 40% too small or too big, and will have enough gaps or tears to enable you to see what the gift is.
If that’s not for you, what about your food shopping? What will be cooking? We’re not being treated to a view of Nigella simpering over an implausibly large turkey this Christmas. And ham cooked in coke now has a whole new meaning.
What are you having for your Christmas lunch this year? I wonder if you might be going for the Indian option – six curries, three naan breads, and twenty four onion bhajis? Thought not. Perhaps something more British might be twenty four jacket potatoes, or sixty eight slices of toast, or seventy one eggs? No? Wrong again. What about twenty three and a half hamburgers, or 4.8 kilos of rice? No? Perhaps you’re going for the healthy option of 42 bananas, or the more challenging 240 satsumas?
Or are you opting for a traditional meal with all the trimmings, preceded by a cooked breakfast, a bottle of champagne, a decent wine with the meal, cheese, the ever open box of chocolates, and then moving on to ham, pork pie, and trifle at tea time?
Most of us will eat between four and five thousand calories on Christmas Day, and perhaps we realise quite what that means when you consider the alternatives I mentioned, which are about that many calories. You might be interested to know that in the last year Farnham Foodbank has given out over four and a half tonnes of food. That certainly made me consider what kind of society we live in when most of us eat so much at Christmas, and enough hungry people in our town queued for four and a half tonnes of emergency food.
At its heart, the Christmas story is nothing to do with presented, wrapped beautifully or very badly, nor about an abundance of luxury foods, nor even sentimentality and tradition. Underneath all that there’s a radical message of God coming among us and showing what love is.
The story tells us there was an unmarried mother who was a social embarrassment, no room at the inn, farm labourers hardly clean enough for polite society, foreigners who were suspect, and supernatural creatures talking about God all very embarrassing, and can you just imagine what the headlines in the Daily Mail would have read, yet all this points to the fact that the stories of Jesus’ birth are about God showing each and every human how much they’re loved by him, without limit or barrier.
The good news of Christmas is that broken people can be made whole. We can, in the spirit of Jesus, the baby at Bethlehem; the man on the cross; the risen Saviour of the world, re-discover hope, look outwards, and that we will make a difference for good. When John talks about the Word coming into the world, it’s a reminder in the form a little baby, that God’s goodness is planted more deeply than all that is wrong in the world … and that same baby challenges us to do what we can to show that to the world.