Who Stole Christmas?

'Well that’s Halloween and Bonfire Night out the way, I suppose it’s all Christmas now’, my colleague casually remarked, as we sat in heavy traffic on the long road to the Shrine of Our Lady of Walsingham in Norfolk for the Bishop of Richborough’s Council meeting! My mind, though focussed on our Christmas fund raising event, I equally casually replied, ’I haven’t had any inspiration for my Christmas Reaching Out article…. I suppose I could look for a good one I’ve written before!’  I was sure I’d think of something and then a couple of days later, there it was on my i-phone News app ’Election 2019 Grinch Fund’, I had heard of the film ‘The Grinch’ but I had never actually sat down and  watched it with the grandchildren! So what did the headline mean? Well apparently, having  arranged an election for December 12th, the Government has received a backlash from various directions, including schools that are used as polling stations; the election is right bang in the middle of the week when many of our younger children are staging their Christmas Nativity play- using schools would be disastrous, ‘No Nativity, No Christmas’, and so the Grinch Fund has been set up to pay for alternative voting venues! I was actually quite impressed by this as I can remember a few years back when the politically correct and anti- Christian elements in our society were questioning whether we should still be having Nativity plays in our multi-cultural, multi faith society, and questioned whether we should celebrate something called ‘Christmas’ at all! Thank goodness this was not the prevailing view amongst  parents of various faiths and cultures, and schools now happily celebrate Christmas along with Chinese New Year, Diwali, Eid and Rosh Hashanah!

So why bring the Grinch into it? The original story is basically taking a ’dig’ at the commercialisation of Christmas; in it the Grinch is a grouchy, bitter creature whose ’heart is two sizes too small’ and who hates Christmas! He lives near the town of ’Whosville’ and gets really annoyed when he sees all  the preparations the residents are making for Christmas! He devises a wicked scheme to steal all their presents, Christmas trees and even their festive food! He disguises himself as Santa Claus and so his dastardly work of stealing their Christmas begins! When the thefts are discovered, imagine his surprise when he hears the people of Whosville happily singing!

‘Perhaps,’ he muses, ‘ Christmas means more than presents and feasting.’ Suddenly his heart grows 3 sizes and he returns all the stuff he has stolen   and ends up joining  in all Whosville’s Christmas celebrations!

How often do we, especially us older ones, say, Christmas isn’t like it used to be and that people have forgotten it’s true meaning; usually because, like the Grinch, we are fed up with seeing how  commercialised the festival has become; the retailer’s message being that you can only celebrate and enjoy Christmas if you spend and have a lot! It is the society we live in that has in a sense ‘stolen’ Christmas from us, not the Grinch! We have let things become how they are!

The school nativity is but one aspect of a festival which celebrates the good news of the Birth of Jesus Christ; his birth is at the heart of the true meaning of Christmas. It’s a celebration which, including the giving of presents, tells a story that appeals to all people of good will, whatever their community or faith; a story that is universal in it’s application. In the end, its basically a story about ordinary people, a Jewish couple who have a baby, born in a stable surrounded by animals because there is no room in the Inn! What’s not to like, that there happen to be angels singing, and shepherds and kings bringing gifts to worship the one they believe to be the Infant Son of God, well that’s a story for another day!

Meanwhile a friend recently sent us this text, ‘The year is 2192, the British Prime Minister visits Brussels to ask for an extension to the Brexit deadline. No one remembers where this tradition originated but every year it attracts tourists from all over the world.’ Hopefully by 2192 we will  still be celebrating Christmas, and performing our Nativity plays; Brexit  however will be but a distant memory and history will tell us that after 3 years of uncertainty and worry life somehow got back to normal! 

              Merry Christmas everyone - Your friend and priest,  

                                                         Father Keith