Pound shop theology of Christmas

John 1:1-14

It was a big day for Farnham when Poundland opened. No more do we have to slip over to Aldershot and use their pound shop, just after we’ve been snobby about how much nicer Farnham is. How wonderful, though, Poundland have the smartest most expensively built shop front in the whole of Farnham. I do want to be quite clear I wholly welcome this shop, on many different levels I’m sure I don’t need to spell out to you: a light shining in many people’s darkness, that snobbery will not overcome.

Poundland are so well know they don’t need to advertise, unlike the other major retailers. Have you seen the John Lewis Christmas advert this year? A little boy gives his pet penguin, who’s really a stuffed toy, a partner for Christmas. John Lewis have stayed with a formula that works for them by connecting with people on an emotional level with a lovely tale, but maybe they need to reimagine their formula because the little boy effectively gives his pet a lady for Christmas.

Then Marks and Spencer got in on the act, with a very different kind of commercial, featuring Christmas angels (played by beautiful models) helping clueless husbands to pick out gifts, manipulating the weather to create instant snowfall, and then playing cupid between a young couple. The surprise winner of this year’s Christmas ad contest came, by all accounts, from supermarket giant Sainsbury’s. Timed to coincide with the 100-year anniversary of World War One, it offered a retelling of the famous Christmas Day trench truce, which saw British and German soldiers down weapons and take part in a football match in no-man’s land. The ad poignantly featured men on both sides – and in both languages – singing ‘Silent Night’. A transcendent moment in a sea of consumer-baiting commercials.

The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.

Except I don’t think it’s quite that simple. Isn’t a pause to play football, no more than a very temporary truce, rather clutching at straws compared to the real goal (pardon the pun!) of permanent peace? I’m far from convinced anything from the Western Front is really an example of the best God wants of us, and offers to us. A temporary truce for football may be the best the world has to offer, but Christmas is really God offering us far more than that!

That’s nothing more than a pound shop theology of Christmas. Sainsburys might very well be good value for food, but please don’t buy your theology of Christmas there, or you’ll get very short measure in glamorous wrapping. At Christmas God himself comes among us in the baby Jesus, in whom the fullness of God was pleased to dwell. What we’re offered is a light that cannot ultimately be extinguished.

The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.

In August 1914 our Foreign Secretary, Sir Edward Grey, said that the “the lamps are going out all over Europe, and we shall not see them lit again in our lifetime”.

Darkness did not overcome the light, although it was a very long time before Europe could be described as brightly lit, little candle flames, here and there showed light had not been extinguished. Perhaps it was the Treaty of Rome in 1957, laying the way for peace in Europe, that lit the lamps again? Wiring in peace and harmony is so much more what Christmas is all about.

The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it, and will not overcome it. This Christmas, as always, God offers himself to the world. Will we allow his light to shine through us?

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