So this is Christmas?

While some people may be savouring happy memories of their recent Christmas day celebrations, this is likely not the case for others, as this season of Christmas can be a highly stressful time.

Families are flung together, often with little in common. Old wounds can press close to the surface of interactions and for some loneliness and grief are amplified to deafening proportions.

This is to say nothing of the financial pressure of gift giving and feast making, all the while as so many around our world go hungry.

The thing is, while we may harbour disappointment that our Christmas celebrations were not the picture perfect event that dominate advertisements on tv, the first Christmas wasn’t perfect either.

Despite Christmas cards and carols that give the impression of sanitised stables, well kept shepherds and a ‘no crying’ baby, reading between the lines of the accounts in the New Testament, both in Luke’s gospel and in Matthew’s gospel, it was no such thing.

To have a baby out of marriage was dangerous for Mary. Not only did this have the potential to make her an outcast in society, this also had potentially life threatening consequences. The reality that Luke says there was no room for them – and that they had to camp out in a shed for Mary to give birth to Jesus- may indicate the power of social exclusion already at work.

While shepherds may seem like endearing fellows to us, being greeted in this shed by grotty, poor strangers from out bush would likely have been awkward, to say the least. This is to say nothing of the magi – or druids – the star gazing foreigners who also came to pay homage to this baby.

It was not perfect then and it is not perfect now.

The God of Christian faith does not wait for us to get things right before showing up. In contrast, the Christian conviction is that the divine is present within our messy realities – the loneliness, grief and poverty, and that in Jesus, the divine dives right into this messiness, embracing it and us.

There is invitation and challenge in this: to have the courage to face the reality of our living without pretending it is perfect and to be open to the divine who is already there.


Rev. Sally Douglas