Sunday, 4 December 2011


N.B. All of the following 21 blogs are because I am reading ‘Do Nothing, Christmas Is Coming’ by Stephen Cottrell, ‘an advent calendar with a difference.’

Our church, like many others, is putting on a Nativity play again this year. It is filled with the usual array of songs, angel-like children playing innkeepers, shepherds and King’s, while Mary and Joseph blissfully arrive at the front of stage with a manger of straw and a few human looking animals. It will be delightful I’m sure, and parents will beam with pride as their children sing sweetly on the stage in groups. And hey, people will even enjoy it and clap etc. But once again, I am left wondered what kind of true message we are sending to the world at Christmas.

Do you know anyone who lives in a family where the parents, in the midst of hardship and pain sing a song, completely agree and support each other and never once lose their temper, get frustrated or argue? I’m not saying that good marriages don’t exist (I have been lucky to see a few in my time) but there is often so little reality in the Nativity story put on by schools, churches and youth groups that I struggle to understand why we do it like that.

The story of family life at the heart of the Christmas story is radically different. Mary is a teenage mum.  Pregnant outside of marriage, she is almost abandoned and then wonderfully supported by her husband-to-be. About to give birth, they travel great distances in order to conform to the tax regulations of an occupying foreign power. There is nowhere for the child to be born, so Mary ends up giving birth in a cowshed at the back of a pub. There was no midwife. No gas and air. No clean sheets. No epidural.” Stephen Cottrell

This is the story that is written about in the Bible, the story of Jesus’ entering into the world a human baby. Can I emphasise the HUMAN in that sentence? He was willing to put his life into the hands of a human mother, a young girl, that the pain and suffering in the world would become part of his pain and suffering, the frustrations and joys of being alive on earth would become his. Do you know many new-born babies that settle down to sleep and never cry? Ask any new parent how much sleep they’ve been getting and you’d come a lot closer to your answer than to read the lyrics of ‘Away in a Manger’.

So this Christmas, don’t feel like your family is not like every other family. Don’t spend time wishing you were somewhere else. Just enjoy them. Enjoy the time that you have with them. And don’t regret a single moment of it.

DNCIC recommendations:

  • Pick up the phone…
  •  … or at least send a text or an email, but not one that adds to people’s burdens, demanding a reply – just something to let someone know that you are thinking of them.
  • Imagine yourself into the shoes of a family member, especially one you’re finding difficult. What are you like to them? And what are the challenges they are facing?
  • Try to spend a few moments each day thinking and praying for your family. Christmas is often the time when families get together and often the time when they fall apart. Think through what your family is facing, and pour some goodwill into them.
If only God would give me some clear sign. Like making a large deposit in my name in a Swiss bank.” Woody Allen
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