Steve's reflections on life

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The origins of a great deal of what we do this time of year has its roots not in Christianity but in Paganism. Lights, trees, Yule logs, presents, holly and mistletoe are a mixture of the Winter Solstice, the Roman festival of Saturnalia and the birth of the Greek God of excess!

For the first 1,000 after the birth of Jesus, Christ's Mass or Christmas was a Mardi Gras of hedonism. The Christian Puritans of the 1600’s tried to get it outlawed but it kept resurfacing in response to people’s appetites. In 1828 a special police force was created in New York to suppress the chaos of the Christmas celebrations!

One man was credited with establishing Christmas as a Christ centred festival in around 1850, his name was Charles Dickens and he did it by touring Britain and America reciting extracts from his new book ‘A Christmas Carol’ the story of a revolting old man called Ebenezer Scrooge. Here’s some of Scrooge’s beautiful festive sentiments “If I could have my way every idiot who goes about with Merry Christmas on his lips would be boiled with his own Christmas pudding and buried with a stake of holly through his heart” Nice guy!

Scrooge finally saw the error of his ways by taking an enforced Christmas Eve journey back through the wreckage of his history and his bad choices. Dickens had a deep love for Jesus and the Bible but expressed harsh criticism towards hypocritical religious institutions that made no response to the crushing poverty of Victorian England. Near the end of his life he wrote these words “I have always strived in my writings to express reverence for Jesus Christ” Not surprising then that Scrooge's turnaround is portrayed almost as a spiritual conversion. When the wonder of the Christmas story touches us, something happens beyond nostalgia and goodwill.

Christmas has been many things over the centuries but it began as God stepped through eternity into our pain ravaged world. Jesus’ birth in Bethlehem is the unquestionable proof that God cares for us and longs to reach us with his peace and his love. Jesus, the gift of God has been received and unwrapped by millions, maybe billions in a seamless transition for two millennia. So this year as people buy presents that they are not sure the recipient actually wants, God offers us a something that none of us can do without.

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