A pregnant girl travels with her fiancé to the distant city of Bethlehem to pay their taxes and she gives birth to a son in less than adequate circumstances.
A fat old man in a red suit comes down the chimney with a bag of presents.
What Jesus and Santa Claus have in common is that they represent unconditional love: they give of themselves to others without expecting anything in return.
Unfortunately this real meaning of Christmas has been supplanted by rampant hedonism and commercialism.
Rather than a celebration of unconditional love, we spend more money, eat more food and even drink more than we know is good for us at the obligatory office parties and family gatherings.
This is not to suggest that we shouldn’t celebrate at this time of year: we’ve earned that pleasure. But let’s remember the truth in the old proverb, “It’s the thought that counts, not the price ticket”.
Christmas isn’t just a time to shop, party, decorate our homes and give gifts.
As we negotiate the gaudy, tasteless commercialism, and the over-indulgence of Christmas perhaps we could take more time to practise unconditional love with our family, friends and the whole of humanity.
Perhaps it would be interesting to ask, if we didn’t decorate or exchange gifts this year would Christmas be the same, or mean the same to us?
If the answer is no, then perhaps we have lost the real meaning of Christmas.
My favourite Christmas hymn is Mary’s Song from Luke 1:46-55, sometimes known as the Magnificat.
Somehow it takes the focus away from the sentimentality of the season and brings us back to some basic questions about the call to unconditional love.
He has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly; he has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty.
This year I will be reflecting on the real meaning of Christmas and trying to make it last a little longer than 24 hours.
Mardi, Osker and I offer our prayer that this Christmas might be significant and life-changing for you and that whatever holidays come your way might be nourishing and refreshing.