The pilgrims are gathering in Bethlehem, and we’ve just been carol singing. We’ve got Christmas cards everywhere and a sink full of sprouts and a Radio Times with snow on the cover strategically placed on the sofa.
I love this time of year. I have issues with it too, because I think there are paradoxes with Christmas that sometimes get highlighted by your personal circumstances, but on the whole I’m down with it all. There’s something special about it all that you don’t get at any other time of the year. Okay, so that sounds a little naive – we sing about peace on Earth, but look at Iraq, look at all the other warzones. But there’s something about Christmas that talks about the potential for peace on Earth, goodwill to all men. It won’t happen this year, maybe not for many years to come, but there’s still the potential and the hope and the idea that we’re not lost to the bleakness and darkness. That idea is all over the place; when the Christmas Doctor Who special took some heat for having an anti-war message, the writer pointed out that of course there was an antiwar message, it’s Christmas. That to me is key. The story of the Nativity ends with Mary, Joseph and Jesus becoming asylum seekers after Herod slaughters children, the tension between the message of peace and the grim reality is a key theme; not that Christmas automatically makes everything alright, because it doesn’t, but because it sows seeds of hope and lights a path towards peace.
The story is ultimately about the other name given to Jesus; Emmanuel, God With Us. Again with the tension – God as an infant asylum seeker rather than an omnipotent deity who could put things right overnight – but God With Us all the same. A baby in a manger, wise men, shepherds, all the nativity cliches thrown into relief by the idea that somehow God is with us.
You can argue with this – heck, I know I do. God With Us? Yeah, right, a lot of the time it doesn’t feel like that. But the whole idea of Emmanuel, of God With Us as an act of grace rather than a God Out There hanging us out to dry with karma and only karma, has a power to it, a mythic sense, a twist in the tail. I keep coming back to this idea, the idea of grace, no matter how many times over the last year or so I’ve wanted to cast it aside. I can’t avoid it. Grace, the potential of and the path to peace on Earth. Something about it all clicks with me, clicks in a way that gets sick of theological debates and the atrocities committed by people who should know better and wants to hold on to the underlying truth of the Story.
I’m probably not making a great job of explaining this. Maybe that’s not the point. It’s something I sense rather than know, something that’s still to be written rather than codified and published in a blog at ten-to-eleven on a Christmas Eve. Who knows?
So it’s time to leave it, quit writing and just wish everyone a merry Christmas and a happy new year. Have a good one.
And watch the Doctor Who Christmas Special.