25 November 2016
A resounding yes
Liz Dumain is assistant director of mission for the Church of England in Birmingham.
As I write this here in Birmingham, the Christmas market has just opened despite pouring rain and high winds. I have to admit this has somewhat taken me by surprise. I feel barely past the end of summer, despite that fact that the leaves on the trees seem to have fallen overnight, it's dark when I get up and dark when I get home, and I have finally given in and switched the central heating on.
Christmas is just around the corner – but I don't feel ready for all that celebration yet. Life has been too confusing, complicated and unexpected. I just don't feel ready for Christmas, even though the annual festive TV advert competition has started in earnest.
BBC news reports this week that retailers will be spending more than £5.6billion this year on easing reluctant folks like me into the festive season and tempting us to spend, spend, spend. Reports in the news this week suggesting that although Brits interest in Black Friday may not be what it was in previous years, we are still expected to blow more than £4 billion on 'bargains' this week.
Now, don't get me wrong. I'm not one of those 'bah humbug' Christmas types, but I just don't feel ready for the complicated explosion of joy and commercialism that this Friday heralds, increasingly more loosely connected with the Jesus who I love with all my heart, muddled with Santa, trees and £7 million to introduce me to a boxer dog on a trampoline as the spirit of the season.
Laying aside the commercialism though - why would I be a reluctant celebrator? Why am I not chomping at the bit to dive into celebrating the birth of the saviour?
Celebration should be part of the DNA of any Christian's life. Scripture resounds with wedding feasts, birthday parties, homecoming festivities and all kinds of other celebrations in the name of Jesus. The Psalmist urges us: "Praise the Lord! Praise God in His sanctuary; praise Him in His mighty heavens! Praise Him for His mighty deeds; praise Him according to His excellent greatness! Praise Him with trumpet sound; praise Him with lute and harp! Praise Him with tambourine and dance; praise Him with strings and pipe! Praise Him with sounding cymbals; praise Him with loud clashing cymbals!" (Psalm 150).
That's a celebration that sounds way beyond 180 German style craft huts and a glass of Gluvine. It feels like we need something to celebrate at the moment. These last few months have been a mixture of confusion, unexpected outcomes, joys and sorrows that may leave people unsure as to what comes next.
To which uncertainty we as Christians must remember that we have a resounding joyful YES to share.
The yes of celebrating the birth of a saviour whose love stands firm through the buffeting of political uncertainty; the yes of his constant presence in our lives; the yes of life-changing forgiveness; the yes of a call to come home to the father; the yes of security under His wings of hope; and a yes that transcends political unrest, local insecurity and family unease.
The yes of Jesus: not just a baby on a Christmas card, but God in human form; willingly giving His life for each and every one of us. The saviour of the world offering his spirit as comforter and guide.
Jesus: the yes in whose name the nations will put their hope (Matthew 12:21). So celebrating Jesus then? In the words of one Christmas advert: "Bring it on."
Why not have a read of our re-examination of the theology of giving ahead of #givingTuesday on 29 November? And if you've not thought about it before, why not use part of your giving to help the Evangelical Alliance continue its vital work? You can do so here.