Christmas 2015

It was once widely thought that the Earth was flat, in spite of a few voices to the contrary. People could see to the horizons, and it just looked flat. They could not see or imagine beyond what their eyes could tell them. When early scientists became more insistent that the Earth is a rough sphere that goes around the sun, religion was used against them; but eventually the evidence became overwhelming, and people today happily accept that the Earth is not flat.

Today, there is a new company of 'flat-earth' people - those who cannot look beyond the boundaries of what science can tell us. For these people, if science cannot measure something, then it does not exist. The trouble is, of course, that lots of things cannot be measured - such as the love a person feels for another; so we have a pointer to the existence of immaterial things. By insisting on measurement, the new flat-earth people have moved from a pre-modern approach to a modern way of thinking, where science proposes the over-arching theory of everything; but they fail to see over the horizon into a post-modern world, where things become relative and individualistic, or even post-post-modern world, where connectedness, intention and meaning become important again, and concepts such as ‘God’ are understood quite differently.

It seems to me that Christmas is another such pointer over the horizon, one that points towards the experience of God’s presence. It certainly points backwards in time, although nobody now knows exactly when Jesus was born. Christmas itself did not originate with the first Christians, but a few hundred years afterwards; and it has now become a feast of commercialism rather than goodwill, as society has moved towards modern ways of thinking. However, I think Christmas also points forwards in time; as consumerism loses its attraction, people become more concerned with connections and purpose, and with finding meaning in life; this is God-stuff. The Christmas rituals such as the experience of eating together and giving gifts become more important as experiences of connectedness rather than for their content. The question of whether my meal or gift is better than yours is overshadowed by our joint experience of relationship; and we realise that we do need each other. And beyond all this is that greater sense of presence that arises when we look over the horizon, or look into ourselves. Dare you look, this Christmas time?

Parkdale Church of Christ 2012-18 —A community of faith, hope and compassion.