I used to be a big curmudgeon about Christmas. Not quite Ebenezer Scrooge—but close. I moaned about the rubbish on the television. I moaned about the terrible Christmas songs that get repeated every year. I moaned about all the tatty decorations—tinsel and snow globes and illuminated reindeers. In my mind, Christmas was unavoidably associated with the oppressive warmth of my in- laws’ home.
In my high-minded moments I moaned about the commercialism that seems to be replacing the Christmas message. Or I moaned about versions of Christmas that sanitise Jesus and make him “safe”.
But, of course, by “high-minded” I really mean “self-righteous”. I used to be a curmudgeon—a proud one.
However, I’ve noticed a change over the past few years.As I slide into middle age, I’ve somewhat given up the fight. I let Christmas happen to me. I embrace the festivities. I even sometimes allow myself to have fun.
But, whether being curmudgeonly or celebratory, it is easy to get distracted from the wonder of God becoming man.The build- up to Christmas is a busy time.There are presents to buy, parties to attend, food to prepare, cards to send and relatives to visit.
So it’s easy to forget about Jesus, even at Christmas—especially at Christmas. But the truth is that we’ll never enjoy Christmas properly unless we understand who it is who was born in Bethlehem that night. Indeed, we won’t enjoy life to the full until we see God in a manger.
In these Advent readings, we’re going to look at John’s version of the Christmas story. It’s not the Christmas story as we’ve come to expect it. There’s no stable, no donkey and no star. There are no angels, no shepherds and no wise men. Even Mary and Joseph don’t get a look in. Instead the focus is entirely on Jesus, the God- become-man.This is Christmas stripped bare.All that’s left is Jesus. And that’s all you need to make your December explode with joy, and your life revolve around the One who brings truth, life, community, reality, clarity—light.
So by all means make sure you’ve bought your presents, ordered the turkey, attended your parties and ticked off seeing the relatives. But see the 24 daily readings in this book as an opportunity to focus not on the to-do list, or even on Christmas as such, but on Christ—to join John in fixing your eyes on Jesus, the one true light.