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12 December 2021
Photo by Gareth Harper on Unsplash
Celebrating the hope of Christmas that includes us all
Words Belinda Cassie
It is just under a couple of weeks until Christmas. Bah humbug!
One of my work colleagues decorated her office weeks ago, and another purchased a Christmas shirt for each of us to wear in the lead-up to Christmas. Bah humbug!
The shops are full of decorations, and, as legend has it, Michael Bublé is being defrosted and made ready to make his Christmas carols appearance as we speak. Bah humbug!
I’m not really a Christmas-loving kind of girl. I appreciate Easter, I have a lot of fun with Halloween, but Christmas – it’s not really my thing. You’d think being a Salvo officer (pastor), I’d be a huge fan of the season that celebrates the birth of Christ, but … I’m just not.
I’ve tried, I’ve really tried. In the past, I’ve worn themed socks and ugly Christmas jumpers. I’ve put up handmade wreaths and cooked special meals for guests but – sigh – the bah-humbug feeling remains. I think because sometimes it feels a lot like it isn’t the season that celebrates the birth of Christ. Mostly, it feels like it’s the season in which we celebrate commercialism. It’s the season we celebrate overspending and overconsumption.
I used to be an emergency department nurse – did you know there is a spike in cardiac presentations at around 2.30pm on Christmas Day. Too much food, too much alcohol and too much arguing end up meaning too much indigestion and too much chest pain. It all just feels a little bit … too much.
And I can’t help but think it could all look so different. We’ve probably all heard the Christmas story referred to as ‘the greatest story ever told’. But how well do we know that story? Mary, the mother of Jesus, was a pregnant teenager who gave birth in a barn, who then with her husband Joseph had to flee a tyrannical king, and they became refugees in Egypt.
The real story of Christmas is a messy one. Jesus, the Son of God, the one who would become the Saviour of all humanity, born into a messy situation in a messy world – is a story that brings me hope. Because this world is messy, my world is messy, and sometimes I’m really messy.
But in among all that mess, there is hope. Because that baby born in a barn grew up and spoke of a world in which those of us with messy stories could find hope, and peace and love. That baby grew up and valued women in an era in which they had little value. That baby grew up and taught that people should care for their neighbours, the poor, and the marginalised. That baby grew up and showed us how we could include those that others exclude. And maybe, just maybe, that’s worth celebrating.
Maybe that’s the real meaning of Christmas. And maybe that’s what makes it the greatest story ever told – no bah humbug about it.
Captain Belinda Cassie is a Salvation Army officer in Tasmania.