Christmas - More than a Warm Glow
I'm writing this in November and now as Remembrance Sunday has passed the big TV Christmas adverts have appeared. There has been discussion in the press about the John Lewis advert - which has cost millions to make and broadcast, so they say. It really is nothing about Christ or faith - but in a way I quite like the advert. We must admit that it is there to give us a warm glow and to associate that with shopping at that particular store! Many of our major retailers and supermarkets are spending big money on advertising as we approach Christmas.
Now in a moment I'm going to quote and make some critical remarks about aspects of the commercialisation of Christmas - but we must all beware here. I'm sure that virtually all of us like to be in a country with a healthy economy and economic growth. We are all happy to share in the wealth and prosperity of a nation (if we can). That wealth and growth is often fuelled by people spending money. For many firms the Christmas period is a key time. So in a way it is good to spend to keep our companies healthy and to provide work for others.
But there is something worrying here that the Archbishop of Canterbury has recently spoken about. People can feel under pressure to buy expensive gifts that they cannot afford. Some people are approaching this Christmas still not having cleared their debts from spending for Christmas last year. Recent research has suggested that one in four people spends more than he or she can afford at Christmas whilst one in five feels obliged to buy his or her child this year's ‘must have' present. As the Archbishop has said, Christmas gifts should show love rather than buy love.
So all this leaves us a long way from the true meaning of Christmas. Remember the warm glow I mentioned earlier? Christmas is much more than that. I had a feeling about the real Christmas when I recently had the privilege of baptising very young boy at St Bartholomew's Church, Bayton. It is always a privilege to do this - but what was unusual was that the child was just two and a half weeks old. As I held him, I thought about that miracle when God came to us in human flesh born as a baby all those years ago. Christmas is about God coming to us in the vulnerability of a young child. And that child was to grow into the adult Jesus who experienced great suffering and sorrow as well as great joys. In his life Jesus taught the way to live before God, and after his death and resurrection sent his Holy Spirit to help us. This Spirit gives us more than a warm glow - he can give us deep inner strength and light.
Many people in the Philippines will need so many resources to overcome the devastation and trauma of Typhoon Haiyan. They will need this inner strength - but also the practical resources of aid as the infrastructure of the devastated areas is rebuilt and food, water and medicine are shared. They will need much more than the warm glow of the Christmas adverts. The willingness of so many people around the world to help is a great encouragement and a reminder of the better side of human nature.
The Christmas TV adverts want to give us a ‘warm glow' so that we will spend our money in their store. Shopping is not bad - and when we spend we help the economy. But Christmas should not be a time when people feel pressurised into spending more than they can afford. The real message of Christmas is different and is about more than a warm glow - it is about God coming to us in flesh and blood and that the Holy Spirit can give us light, strength and hope deep within - even in the most challenging of circumstances. This is something to celebrate with great joy!