I am a late-life convert to Doctor Who. I love the way he telescopes time, handles its mystery with a mix of casualness, compassion, courage and humour. But when the Church handles its year much the same way I’m not so happy. After encouraging us to leaven the four weeks of Advent with reflective silence it whooshes us through the twelve days of Christmas.
We’ve no sooner finished singing “When A Child is Born” than an image of a half grown Jesus is presented to us under the title The Holy Family, followed up by a special day to venerate Mary, as Mother of God. Slap bang in the middle of all these feasts comes New Year and wishes and good intentions go flying around the globe – but no feast day. Then it’s a back-track to the Magi and suddenly the twelve days of Christmas are over while I’m still trying to absorb the God mystery imaged in a Bethlehem cave.
Maybe it’s something to do with aging but my I want those twelve days of Christmas left alone. Christmas day gets all tangled up enough with presents, food and family. Boxing Day, regardless of the sales decreed by the major retail stores, begins my end-of-year slowdown. The air is warmer, there is almost no morning and afternoon traffic because school is finished for the year and for many annual holidays have begun. It’s time to catch my breath, ponder the leftovers in the ‘frig and begin to reflect on what Christmas is all about.
We look at the crib in the church and we see a new born baby and because we know who that baby is, we spiritualise Christmas, taking refuge in Church-speak, labelling it the Feast of the Incarnation. The physicality of a new-born is deeply appealing. It’s a pity we lose that reverence as we get older and find our own and others physical self less and less appealing. The Word was made flesh and dwelt among us. That is the Good News of Christianity. Jesus, like us, is flesh and spirit. They go together, As a distant pop song used to sing, ’You can’t have one without the other’.
As my twelve days of Christmas unfold I try to absorb this insight. Today 353,000 babies will be born around the world, each uniquely created in the image and likeness of God. The Word was made flesh and dwelt among us.
There are signs of God’s continued presence everywhere in our lives. So it’s somehow appropriate that midway through the twelve days of Christmas we remember how the year has been before we celebrate the beginning of another.
239 people disappeared on a flight from Kuala Lampur to Beijing, 200 Nigerian schoolgirls were kidnapped, most never to return home again, nine children from one family were murdered in Cairns. The Word was made flesh and dwelt among us.
From around the world come cries for help from people caught up in war, famine, persecution, earthquakes, ebola and domestic violence. The Word was made flesh and dwelt among us.
The Christmas angels sang of peace and goodwill, gifted to us in Jesus, the son of Mary, the Son of God. On New Year’s Eve, as the midnight sky explodes with colour, it carries God’s dream of a world where age, gender, race and religion are a reason to celebrate and not a cause for conflict.
Blessings upon you and yours for every day of 2015.