Saturday, December 16, 2017

Christmas Calamities?

I had my first "bah humbug!" moment of the season when I heard a piece on my local radio station promoting "Christmas disasters you have known". Folk were being invited to call in and tell the dark story of the very worst Christmas calamity they could recall. To illustrate this the presenter began sharing some of the the awful things that some callers had told him about already. There was the family who found that their dishwasher broke down on Christmas Day, the home where the oven packed up on the special day forcing them to take their festive dinner to a neighbour to cook - and even one home where oven breakdown led to a barbecued turkey!

Once I had calmed down from my indignation I thought about some of the Christmases we have known - they certainly weren't all white, whatever Bing Crosby sang. There was the Christmas Day where I was called to the local hospital just before lunch to be with the dying husband of a church member. And then there was the turkey meal I couldn't enjoy because I had an attack of acute pancreatitis in the morning and by the time the Queen's speech was over I was an in-patient and nil-by-mouth. Another Christmas I had a spell in a London hospital over the holiday season and was discharged late on Christmas Eve after the last flights home had gone. Diane and I stayed in a hotel where the kitchen closed on the day itself as did most of the restaurants nearby. But among the biggest calamities I recall was the one where a guy who worked in our home and garden in Zimbabwe wakened us early on the Christmas Eve to tell us that his new baby was dead. The little one had passed away during the night in his accommodation next to us. There being no undertakers or gravediggers available, we wrapped the little one and buried him in the bleak children's cemetery later that day as is the custom in hot countries. We were just grateful that our own boy was safely away with his grandparents in Guernsey for Christmas that year.

Christmas, you see, is not all about magic and nostalgia. It's about life in all its pain and trouble. The Son of God came into the world in a stinking animal shed, not a clean maternity room, and certainly not a palace. He was hunted down by Herod's killers before he could even walk. His family was forced to run for their lives and to seek asylum in Egypt. His coming into a messy, violent world was because we needed a saviour and deliverer from the addictions of  selfishness, materialism and greed. Life is not fair for millions this Christmas, not just for those whose white goods give out on the 24th or 25th. Their dinner may be in danger, but not their lives or their homes.

I hope you don't have a calamity this Christmas, but if you do, please know that it will not be out of keeping with the season, nor, I hope, will it be as bad as many will know. Thank God the coming of Christ was designed for just the sort of real world that many will experience. "Born to raise the sons of Earth - born to give them second birth. Hark, the herald angels sing, glory to the new born King!"