It’s Boxing Day; we’re at the bottle bank, and my dad’s slotting bottles in the bin one by one. Smash … smash … smash. Next to him is another man doing the same, who gets to the end of his bottles, turns to my dad, shrugs and says, ‘Well there goes another Christmas!’
It was a memorable comment because that’s often how I feel after Christmas. It’s not that my Christmas is all about the booze, but that it’s gone so quickly. We seem to spend months building up to Christmas. The shops start playing Christmas music in October, the cups in Starbucks turn red in November, then there’s weeks of trying to work out what presents to buy. When we finally reach Christmas Day, it’s a 24 hour blur of lights, food and wrapping paper before we all find ourselves at the bottle bank, or the kitchen sink, or back at work. At this point someone usually quips, ‘It’s only 364 days until Christmas!’ and everyone sighs.
I love Christmas Day itself. I love every bit of it – the tasty food, the time with family, the smell of the Christmas tree, and I don’t mind admitting I quite look forward to the presents too! So as I head to bed at the end of the day, I might well be heard to echo the famous lyrics, ‘I wish it could be Christmas every day!’ It’s a silly wish, I know, and it would be disastrous for my waistline if it came true, but it really would be wonderful if the joy of the day didn’t stop. But of course … it does.
The other day I got home from work, my wife put my 5-month-old boy in one hand, and with the other I started checking Facebook videos on my phone. It took me a couple of minutes to realise what I was doing – watching cat videos and ignoring my gorgeous boy. But eventually I put down my phone and started enjoying some time with little Sammy. In a similar way, among the distracting noise and activity of Christmas, we can easily ignore the one, quiet, little thing that leads to lasting joy.
The message of Christmas isn’t especially flashy or attention-grabbing, but it contains the key to finding a joy that continues all year-round. The famous Christmas carol O Little Town of Bethlehem has a verse that goes like this:
How silently, how silently
The wondrous gift is given!
So God imparts to human hearts
The blessings of His heaven.
No ear may hear His coming,
But in this world of sin,
Where meek souls will receive him still,
The dear Christ enters in.
The joy of Christmas is that the little baby, resting silently in the arms of Mary, was God in human form and he came into the world for you and me. The baby Jesus grew into Jesus the man, who willingly died a terrible death on a cross. His death wasn’t a meaningless waste, but a planned rescue. On that cross he received the punishment deserved by you and me and everyone in ‘this world of sin’. Why did he do it? For love. He did it because he wanted you. You were the prize. He wanted to make a way for you to be forgiven and never have to face the same fate. Instead, ‘where meek souls will receive him still, the dear Christ enters in’. And for those who receive him, he is the ‘wondrous gift’, the gift for all year round, the gift that means the joy of Christmas really can be ours every day.