The long game of Christmas – by Stewart Perry

Are you ready to get into the Christmas Spirit? This Sunday is the 1st Sunday in Advent, which if you’re being traditional and ‘proper’, is when you can put your Christmas decorations up (and leave them up until the 6th of January).

When we moved into the street where we live it was the end of January 2015 and we had been looking at homes in the lead up to Christmas. I remember noticing that some of the trees in our street had fairy lights on them and how great they looked, not too much, just simple, not overstated.

It will be 8 years this year since we first saw the lights in our street and some of the trees (just a few) have never had the lights turned off… I do wonder if there’s been a ‘redo’ or ‘upgrade’ of the lights in that time but if you drive down our street at night in the middle of the year you’ll see a tree or two with fairy lights switched on.

You could take the view that someone in our street is just lazy and hasn’t bothered to switch them off… but in my pursuit of being able to theologise anything I’ve begun to wonder whether I should give up my grinch like attitude to those who put up their Christmas decorations too early… or leave them up too long… what if Christmas never stopped?

I know that might be a scary reality for some, there’s so much business, so much expense and so much effort goes into curating that ‘perfect Christmas’ but it struck me earlier this year that Christmas isn’t just one day, it’s not a moment, it’s not a quick win… it’s a long game. And perhaps we’ve been thinking about Christmas all wrong.

There’s a famous story about the Christmas truce in 1914 after the start of World War 1, where fighting ceased on the Western Front and French, German and British soldiers crossed trenches to exchange seasonal greetings and talk. In some areas, men from both sides ventured into no man’s land on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day to mingle and exchange food and souvenirs. What is less well known and less told is that on the following Christmases because the tensions and bitterness of the war had increased so much, the Christmas spirit was not so readily extended and the fighting continued for the most part. As famous as that moment was – it didn’t change the outcome of the war, it didn’t even change things the following year.

The commercialisation and commodification of Christmas is regularly derided not just by the Christian traditionalists but more and more by our secular world yet each year we seem to spend more money and go to more effort to make that 1 day matter. With the restrictions and events of the last few years there seems to be more urgency this year to make this not just a normal Christmas but the best Christmas.

This year in the journey through Advent we are going to jump immediately into the Christmas story (rather than wait until Christmas Day) and explore what the idea of Christmas being a long game really means. We’ll look at how hope, peace, joy and love are all long games and not just fleeting moments or quick wins. It’s kind of like asking the question, what would it mean to the world if we had our Christmas lights on for the last 8 years… or more to the point 2000 years or even more to the point since the beginning of human history.

Christmas is part of God’s subversive plan to redeem the world and it’s a plan born out of hope, peace, joy and love that began before we could have even known we should be writing a Christmas Card or writing anything for that matter. 

I do think Christmas will be the best ever this year because I think Christmas should be getting better and better each year, each day following the birth of our savour Jesus Christ… we’ve just got to remember to leave the lights on.