It was the first week in November when on a train I overheard three young men talking openly. Their conversation included the comment ...Christmas is already in the shops. A day or so later I watched the first of Currys/PC World’s Christmas adverts. In the advert a Mum and Dad double act, as a spoof, declare a ‘tech free’ Christmas. What is on offer instead is an old fashioned Christmas with carols and singing. The trio of children are less than impressed. All changes when a new LG OLED 4K ready TV is revealed in the living room. It is a funny advert. The retailers declared marketing strategy is to help customers ‘get it right’ when making a significant purchase at this season. That is perfectly understandable.
There is however in this an underlying message. Getting Christmas right is not about having an old fashioned Christmas as mentioned by the Mum and Dad in the advert but about buying the right products. This raises an interesting question. For many people coming to this season of celebration; what does it mean to get Christmas right? In Dr Seuss’s book How the Grinch Stole Christmas there is a wonderful quote... “Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn't before! What if Christmas, he thought, doesn't come from a store. What if Christmas...perhaps...means a little bit more!”
What all of us know but rarely acknowledge is that ‘things’ however clever, expensive or innovative can only give a passing pleasure and transient joy. Of course it is good to celebrate Christmas and to give gifts to one another. The heart of the Christmas story is that God gave us his greatest gift in the birth of Jesus. The late Steve Jobs, founder of Apple is quoted s saying: ‘If I had given people what they wanted they would never have got Apple.’ Embodied in the Christmas message is that God gave us not what we wanted but what we need. The birth of Christ was not glamorous. The gospels tell us is that God in Christ stepped into the depths of our broken, sad and troubled world to bring us what we need; peace, reconciliation, forgiveness and transformed lives. It cost him everything. Like all gifts he has to be received. This story is not old fashioned; it is timeless and his transforming presence priceless.
A letter from the Bishop of Ludlow