The Stray Christmas Card

I thought had got them all – but no, I spied one today that had previously escaped my notice. The Christmas card that got away!

The majority of our cards get pegged on a string in the sitting room, but when that fills up..

What a wonderful problem to have!

… they get put on bookshelves or stuck onto the kitchen cabinets. It is these ‘un-pegged’ cards that tend to battle it out to see which one can remain unnoticed for the longest. Unless I am mistaken the one I spotted today really is the last one, but one year we found one tucked in between some books in May!

How do you feel now all the decorations are down? (Or indeed if they are they still up!)

Often I find things a bit bare and flat, but this year I am revelling in the return to the less cluttered feel that the 6th January brings with it. (That is if you don’t count the spare room where I have put all the decorations until I can sort them out!)

But in the midst of enjoying a Christmas-free house – except that one card in the kitchen that I have yet to remove! – my heart is far from Christmas-free. Like an earworm stuck in my head, it has really wriggled its way into my heart this year. I know that sounds like a line from a bad Christmas movie – but it’s true.

In God’s grace and kindness I have been amazed anew this year with the wonder of having something real and substantial and worthwhile and beautiful and lasting to celebrate.

What a paradox there is in the festivities that surround us over the Christmas season. Everything (well almost everything) gets so FULL – the strings that hold our cards, our diaries, our fridges, the sacks or stockings or the space under our trees that we fill with presents, the shops and the restaurants, the roads and credit card bills.

At the same time as all of this however, and even more so into the New Year, there is an element of emptiness – and I’m not just talking about our bank accounts. It is as though no matter how much we put into a ‘Jesus-free Christmas’ it never really fills up. Like a colander! After all – CHRISTMAS – means a party/celebration of Christ. Take that away and you just have a party.

Celebration works best when it is celebrating something real and means something to us. Think for example of the difference between the ‘celebrations’ that go with Halloween and the celebrations bursting from a football stadium following the unexpected victory of the local team.

The former,  at least for the majority of people, is basically a celebration that has been sold to us  – it is suggested that we celebrate, we like to celebrate and so we do. The latter is an uncontrolable reaction to something happening that has been longed for and cried over and will now be talked about again and again by a community of people who share the same passion.

We have the same phenomenon with celebrities don’t we. In the past 10 years or so – or possibly more? – people have taken to becoming famous for being famous. Reality TV shows have bred them by the dozens and now maintain their status with programmes like I’m a Celebrity. We like to have people who we can celebrate, we are presented with them and we lap it up. In contrast, there are others who we can’t help but celebrate – for their generosity, their compassion, their brilliance and achievements, the pleasure they give us through their creativity…..

In the Christmas story we see a lot of spontaneous, ‘bursting out of the stadium’ celebrations. John leaps in Elizabeth’s womb, the shepherds run around telling people, the wise men fall to their knees, the angels sing, Anna and Simeon rejoice….and if the baby that caused all of this celebration has been at the heart of our Christmas we too will remain full in Him despite the empty boxes and card-less walls we have been left with.

As a Christian I will never experience life without celebration. I won’t always feel it – in fact as I type this I am in the fog of a depression – but the victory and the gift and the relationship is always there. Not just until next season, or while the infatuation lasts, or until the toy breaks or the pieces go missing – but everyday without fail – until THE DAY when it will just get better!

Don’t get me wrong – I am not a Scrooge saying BAH HUM BUG to all the festivities and heaving a sigh of relief that it is all over. I actually happen to quite like the pretty lights and the candles and the songs and the beautifully wrapped presents. I love seeing my family and friends and watching predictable festive movies. In fact I think I can enjoy them all the more because I am not expecting them to be more than they are. They are not our saviour, our rescuing King, our CHRIST. They are just some of the MAS that our culture suggests to us.

We don’t have Christmas crackers in our house as the Court Jester is afraid of loud bangs, but I think they sum things up. While you do get the odd amazingly useful gift in a cracker, they are basically noise and colour and exictement in a prettily wrapped parcel. When they are done you are left with a lot of rubbish to sweep into the bin – and the one or two people who keep their hats on all day! The investment is in the moment. It does what it does – but what will you look to to give you something more?

Dear Father God, thank you that because of your grace and mercy and love Christmas is so much more than noise and wrapping. Thank you so much for the love of family, and the interesting and fun gifts I have received. Thank you for the rest from routine that the festive season gave me. These are good gifts from you and our pleasure in them is part of our being in your image. Thank you so so much more for the delight you have given me in the substantial-ness of celebrating Jesus. You are all I need and I praise you. In Jesus’ precious and celebration worthy name I pray, Amen.

And so I think I might just leave that card up to remind myself and maybe promt conversation throughout 2017.

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