How are you spending this Christmas?
The Bishop of St Albans Christmas Message 2017
Deck the aisles with tinsel and turkey! This year’s Christmas ads are out!
John Lewis’s wants to end your fears of monsters under the bed, Tesco’s says it makes everyone welcome and Marks and Spencer’s shows a life-changing encounter between Paddington Bear and a burglar he mistakes for Santa.
A slogan in one ad is ‘spend it well’. One retail analyst estimates that households are projected to spend on average £820 on Christmas this year (that’s about double what they spend in other European counties). That’s a lot of money, especially if for those who don’t have a large income. Many people are tempted to pay for it on their credit card which can result in it costing far more in the end.
I accept that the aim of Christmas ads is not to tell the Christmas story, but to sell more. Spending on Christmas festivities such as a special meal, an outing and gifts that show we cherish each other is part of our celebrations. But if other countries can ‘do’ Christmas for so much less, that says it’s not about how much we spend but how we spend Christmas. How will you spend yours? The slogans and messages of the Christmas ads promise lots but don’t always meet our deeper needs. To do that we need to go beyond the tinsel and the turkey, to unwrap the gift and find the real Christmas story.
It’s worth our time doing that. We live in uncertain times at home and abroad. Many people are consumed by worry and fear. We need to rediscover the message of peace and goodwill. We also need to recover our noble heritage as a country which welcomes the dispossessed, the stranger, the exile and the suffering child. Many people seek shelter from war-torn and disaster-ravaged countries.
The birth of Jesus is the assurance that God is with us. He is not remote but is alongside us despite the trouble, fear and strife of the world. His birth didn’t just make news, it made history. It marked the death of despair and the beginning of hope.
We need the peace of Christ more than ever today. It is ours for the asking if we let our lives be changed by the message of Christmas. Why not come to Church and join us in bringing joy and cheer to others through our work in foodbanks, hosting Christmas lunch for elderly and lonely people, giving prisoners a chance to send Christmas gifts to their children and so much more? This year, why not spend your money and your Christmas well?