‘Magic Moments’ sung by Perry Como in 1957 is a song we might associate with Christmas as it was once used to sell ‘Quality Street’ chocolates in Christmas advertisements on British television.
Christmas is a magic moment that we may long to capture. Trees, lights, cards, presents, food, decorations – all geared towards capturing the magic moment of Christmas.
The trouble is maybe we carry a lot of other stuff as well – overloaded – and not with presents. Tired? Troubled? Preoccupied with worries, so that the magic moment of Christmas feels, perhaps – just out of reach…
Part of the problem might well be our upbringing. From an early age we are presented with the idea that Christmas is a time for children. Now don’t get me wrong, I think the wonder and excitement that children bring to Christmas is brilliant, but it is not the whole picture of Christmas, and it reinforces the idea that Christmas is something you grow out of.
I can understand why and that children’s nativity plays cannot contain the complex threads of the original Christmas story. What do I mean? Well, you only have to read the Bible for yourself to get the salient points:
- Mary is an unmarried, teenage, pregnant mother, engaged to Joseph, who for fear of shame initially considers renouncing her – if he had done so, Mary would surely have been scorned even killed.
- When Jesus is born there is literally no human place on Earth for him to stay, he sleeps in an animal feeding trough – a manger.
- At the news of the Magi, King Herod murders young children, not that different from brutal dictatorships to this day. Joseph and Mary, with the infant Jesus, are forced to become refugees.
Christmas is hardly a children’s story!
For all the right reasons we protect children from the harshness of these details but for all the wrong reasons we forget what Christmas has to say to our adult world as we sentimentalise it. Sadly, that is only too clear when the bad things in life happen: bereavement, illness, redundancy, homelessness, fighting…
I think this is made worse during the Christmas season by the common misunderstanding that we may feel we have to be jolly for a whole month of the year. Do you know how hard it is to be jolly all the time?
I can’t do it!
Have you ever had that experience of groaning when somebody says something like, “Cheer up, it’s Christmas!” Which is perhaps one of the worse things in the world to say to someone when they are down, for whatever reason.
All the anxieties of real life that have no room in our jolly commercial Christmasses but are exactly the reason why God came to us when we think about it:
- Christmas is God’s love making itself open and vulnerable to us in our troubled world.
- God makes room for us even when we have no room for Him – just as there was no room at the Inn.
- Christmas is God’s enormous risk of love, and that is no surprise because at the heart of the story is childbirth – with all the risk, anxiety, and hope that comes with it.
For the writers of the Gospels, Christmas is more than a capturing of childhood wonder, or a season to be artificially jolly – Christmas is about a future yet to be born.
That is what provides the wonder and the joy. And for those in the nativity who can see that, they discover a magic moment – even though it looks to the rest of the world like just another poor baby whose parents can’t even provide him with a bed for the night.
This year I went on a mindfulness course for clergy in Dorset. Mindfulness is a form of ancient meditation increasingly gaining credibility in medical circles. Basically it teaches the art of being in the present moment and seeing everything and everyone potentially as a gift.
In other words, a ‘magic moment’.
Although this might be easy to scoff at, the more I hear on the news of…
- depression and suicide rates going up
- domestic arguments and violence increasing over the Christmas season
- homelessness and mental health issues increasing
…let alone all the other things happening in our world – the more I firmly believe that we need to cultivate the art of discovering ‘magic moments’. We certainly need to do something. Because what we are doing is literally making us ill and killing us, and our world.
For me as a Christian it all begins at Christmas in a manger with a homeless baby and shepherds and magi and angels saying, ‘There…”
“There is a magic moment – see it for all it’s worth – it could just change your life, and help change the world.”
However much we dress up the nativity with tinsel and fairy lights, we cannot hide the real light that shines from the manger. Magic moments are not just to be discovered in church at Christmas, but in your life in the world – each day.
- For God loved the world so much that He dwelt among us in human form.
- His Spirit dwells among us now, and I am sure God provides magic moments for us to discover in the gift of each ordinary day.
- Just as God did over 2000 years ago in the birth of a child and all that followed from the cradle to the cross, and beyond.
Magic moments – like gifts, inviting us to receive them…