We do like to dress Christmas up in fairy lights don't we! Let's all feel "Christmasy", jingle some bells, remember a night when all was "calm and bright", hang up our stockings, sniff the cloves and cinnamon, let it snow let it snow let it snow.
Don't get me wrong, I love our ridiculous traditions and the once a year chance to get together with the extended family but in all these wrappings I've started to see the birth of Christ through those warm fuzzy spectacles. Songs like “Silent night” where “all is calm and all is bright” don’t really help things either. Yes, Jesus birth was a miracle. But he was born in the humblest of circumstances, in a messy birth in a dirty smelly stable! Can you imagine giving birth in a stable?! Yeeeeuch… There was no tinsel, no fairy lights. It may not have been an ordinary birth. Angels announced it, and then shepherds turned up to gape, some wise men brought their gifts a little later, leaving his parents somewhat awed and bewildered.
But there’s a distinction between what is “christmasy” or magical and what is miraculous.
Got to bring Sufjan in here... another thing I love about those albums is the fact that interpersed amongst the bells and banjo carols is the occasional song that reminds me that the whole world doesn't just become glowing and "christmasy" at Christmas time. That people still hurt, families don't suddenly become unbroken, fighting doesn't always stop, wars don't just end, people don't suddenly escape poverty or become happy at, or just during the christmas period.
Jesus coming was a way of healing the broken-hearted but think about what it took him to do that... He came to live among us, he came to live as one of us, experiencing weakness as we do, he humbled himself, in life, taking on the very nature of a servant, not just his death on the cross. He taught, healed, reached out...
The miracle is that God came as the light of the world, to bring us peace and joy! It's awe-inspiring and well worth celebrating! But in order to bring us that peace and joy, he had to experience the ordinary and weakness and suffering, whether that was being laid as a newborn in a feeding trough or being crucified alongside common criminals. I wouldn't call that magic.
So I've been trying to remember that Christmas celebrates the fact that Jesus came down in human frailty. He was fully God, just and righteous and love, and yet he became fully human; lived life, experienced weakness, hunger, brokenness, hurt and pain. And so He understands our weakness... Amaaaazing!
Christmas was a miracle! Christ is a miracle! But miracles don't necessarily mean "magic". And somehow I don't think there was any "magic" on that first Christmas.