by Greg Spearritt
Rodney Eivers, Queensland Contact for SoFiA, has been reflecting
on the magic of Christmas. He says:
In aligning myself with the Progressive approach to Christian faith it has long concerned me that because we are putting aside old traditions and old biblical interpretations we can tend to come across as very negative. We may well be charged with taking the fun and passion from our faith.
For this reason I make a conscious effort to look out for positive pointers as to how we might view and live in this new world. One aspect of this is the promotion of George Stuart’s setting of new words to old hymn tunes.
Another side of Christian tradition I struggle with is “What to do about Christmas?” This annual celebration at both a religious and a secular level would have to be far away the biggest of all in the Western world, and increasingly so in the Eastern world, if what we hear about Christmas in Japan is anything to go by.
So how do we respond to the deep ingraining of this celebration in our culture and the powerful influence it has for generating goodwill among human beings, when so much of the historical basis for it is suspect.
In pondering this, my attention was strongly drawn to what Bishop John Spong noted recently:
Perhaps we ought not to worry that for a few days each year people suspend their rational faculties and enter a world of magic where stars do wander and angels do sing and wise men do travel and virgins do conceive. There is enough time each year to deal with reality, maybe Christmas is the time for pretending. What is important is that we need to know that pretending is exactly what we are doing.
In response to this commentary, Australian writer, Margaret Rolfe has expanded the theme beautifully:
Yes, as you say, tell it as a “Once upon a time…” story, but tell it as a story with meanings: A story about hope (because all babies are about hope for the future); a story for ordinary people because the angels appeared to shepherds; a story about a star (a symbol of light in a dark world); a story about wise men (the search for wisdom); a story about love (Mary and Joseph’s love for their baby born in dubious and uncomfortable circumstances); a story about angels (if God is love, then angels are messengers of love);and a story, above all about peace and goodwill on Earth! We all need that story. We all suspend belief when it comes to turtles racing hares, but we all can get the message.