So there we were. Dad and me. Mum had left for the Sudan to supervise the birth of her grandson. That left Dad and me to sort out Christmas Day. Although he was a food scientist, cooking wasn’t really on his radar. His masterstroke for self-catering was warming soup up in the electric kettle. As for me, I hadn’t progressed much beyond Fray Bentos crispy pancakes at that stage. The answer was clear – the local hostelry.
So we booked up for Christmas Eve evening. It was a big, big Christmas meal, bottle of wine between the two of us, finished off with Irish Coffee – my very first. Dad was a bear of a man and could put away quite a lot. Me, I was barely eleven stone. Say no more.
We went home and slept in late the next day. We were still full up from the meal, but at midday on Christmas Day we ventured into the unknown territory of the kitchen and spotted a familiar landmark. ‘Beans on toast, Dad?’
‘Sounds good to me!’. We watched the Queen and Top of the Pops with toast and a can of beans under our belts. Thus the origin of the family legend that was the Baked Bean Christmas. Magic memories.
Someone said at church today that Christmas is a bit like Marmite. You like it or you don’t. (Hint – try Marmite and banana sandwiches. Surprise yourself, and let me know how it went). I love Christmas. I love the chaos, the family, the tree, the family rituals, the food, the telly and the break in normal routines. I also love the chance it gives me to think about what Christmas is really about.
You can argue about whether the birth of Christ took place in December. You can argue about whether the wise men turned up at the same time as the shepherds, whether Jesus was actually born in a stable, whether there was an innkeeper, and why in a town full of relatives they could find no home to stay in.
There is an awful lot hiding the birth of Jesus from us. Commercialism, the lack of attention to the correct details of the story, the trivialization of the message and the mocking of those who have a Christian faith. But think about this. Much can happen in two thousand years. Empires come and go. Great discoveries are made and soon forgotten. Heroes die overnight. Yet we remember the birth of a child two thousand years ago. How many children are born into the world every minute? Yet we remember this one birth so long ago.
Why is it so important?
If you want to find the secret, then look at the faces of young children as they listen to the nativity story in wonder. Jesus says “I tell you with all certainty, unless you change and become like little children, you will never get into the kingdom from heaven”, because “the kingdom from heaven belongs to people like these”. (Matt 18 v 3, 19 v 14. ISV)
Sometimes we are too clever and grown-up for our own good.
Happy Christmas and a peaceful new year.