Tag Archive: true meaning of Christmas


In response to a piece i shared on Christmas, which among other things, invited readers to share some of their creative/revolutionary/others-focused ideas they had for celebrating Christmas, i was tweeted by Graham Heslop links to two articles, asking me to check them out.

i’m not going to lie, i wasn’t super enthusiastic, mostly because the idea of reading more articles feels a little bit like work. But Graham is someone i follow on the Twitterer [@avosquirrel] and generally like or agree with a bunch of stuff he has posted and so i went to take a look. And was pretty much blown away.  Thank you, Graham!

Short, simple and to the point and both well worth reading, especially the first one focusing on Incarnation which is a concept i completely love and a drawn towards.

The Christ Event and the True Christmas Spirit –  Graham Heslop

He quotes J.I. Packer as referring to the idea of Incarnation as  ‘the most profound and unfathomable depths of Christian revelation’: God took on human flesh and was born. The eternal Son, who was with the Father, through whom the world was created and by whom all life is sustained, became a man (John 1:1-4, 14).

One thing i really love about the idea of the Incarnation is the picture that it presents of this message of ours which is meant to be ‘Good News’ and yet which too often [thanks to our messiness] is not presented that way. But taking us back in reminding us that the Christmas message is that of God leaving the luxuries of heaven behind and revealing Himself to us, face to face.

He ends it by pointing us towards a ‘true meaning of Christmas type message’ where he highlights, the model of Christ we are called to imitate: continual and selfless pursuit of others’ interests.’

Christmas and Incarnation should be held hand in hand and this post by Graham really helped achieve that in simple yet dramatic form.

The Traditions of Men and our Forgotten King – Graham Heslop

This piece focuses on the tension that exists between human traditions and the Kingship of Jesus. I love how he sums it up:

When it came to the traditions of men Jesus was incensed by their obscuring effect; his fight was not against the Jews’ practices and cultural artifacts, but how those drew the Jewish people away from God. 

He reminds us that Jesus was pretty harsh with the religious leaders of the day and this quote from Mark 7 backs that up:

“You have a fine way of rejecting the commandment of God in order to establish your tradition, making void the word of God by your tradition that you have handed down” (Mark 7:9, 13).

As we head into the Christmas season and a huge spotlight falls on our plans, our parties, our food, our presents, there is an ongoing refrain of ‘Me, me, me, me, me, me’ that can be heard and observed if you listen closely enough. Christmas gives us the ‘Get out of Jail Free’ card to justify any crazy, out of control spending we would not be happy with at any other time of the year.

Graham sums up this wrestling so clearly:

Tomorrow is the day in the Christian calendar when we remember the Son’s self-giving work, which began with the incarnation. Yet tomorrow is most likely already consumed by brightly adorned trees sheltering piles of presents, large family gatherings, and gluttonously sized meals – the traditions of men.

And draws mention to Jesus as ‘The Forgotten King’ and the desperate call that in the midst of all of the building up of momentum as we head towards Christmastime, we don’t lose sight of the One who all this is meant to be about… and the life and world transforming lifestyle He calls us to be living out.

Let’s not miss Christ this Christmas.

[For the piece i wrote inviting you to share your creative Christmas ideas with us all, click here]

[For an older piece i wrote on Keeping the Cross in Cross-mas, click here]



It’s true, i am the Grinch of all things Christmas.

Well, maybe not all things. But christmas carols in October? i literally count the success of my year [in one way] by how late in the year i manage to hear my first christmas carol [Disclaimer: This obviously excludes the Boney M version of ‘Drummer Boy’ and anyone who says otherwise is clearly lying through their teeth, or maybe their barumpumpum-bum]

But between all the ‘Put Christ back into X-mas’ and ‘Christmas is based on pagan festivals’ and ‘Jesus wasn’t even born on the 25th of December’ nonsense, Christmas to me typically has the potential [and the history] to become a big fat mess of commercialism and me-manship [that should so be a word!]

And so, in many ways, i have been more a ‘Bah, humbug’ kind of Christmas spectator than a fully invested enthusiast.

It is possible that the fact that so many of the traditional Christmas foods like mince pies [that is NOT mince in there] or Christmas cake [that is not cake – it is the result of an explosion in a raiSIN and evilness factory covered by icing that is not really icing to make you think it is cake] are so hideous to this squishy-fruit hating guy.




But Christmas does have a special power in the world. Possibly one of the most bizarre stories is of the First World War when the fighting was topped on Christmas day and soldiers crossed the lines to give small gifts to each other and even in at least one case apparently played a football match against the enemy. This to me personifies both the greatness and the ridiculousness of the season as the very next day hostilities were resumed and they went back to murdering each other.



The downright ugliness of last minute Christmas shopping brawls. The insane excess when it comes to the kind of money we can ‘justify’ spending “because it’s Christmas” without feeling any kind of bad. And the aforementioned evil cake of fruitness. New excessive and unnecessary debt. Obligation. Loneliness. And more…


In 2012, i put out a request for people to share some of the creative things they were going to be doing for Christmas and this blog post titled, ‘Christmas for the Masses’ was the result. A lot of people doing a lot of inspiring stuff.

That is when the Grinch in me gets chased down the street and told he is not welcome any more – when we lose a lot of the ME of what Christmas has been from growing up as a young child when it was ALL ABOUT THE PRESENTS to a realisation that it is so much more.

My parents were great at that, although i don’t think i ever picked up the lessons until later, because it was usually lost in the ‘this is affecting my present-opening’ moments. But on Christmas day, after the service, before we got home [and to my presents!] taking vases of flowers around to a number of old people who were going to be spending Christmas by themselves; or inviting people around after the service for coffee and evil Christmas mince pies; or having people who otherwise might spend Christmas by themselves over for our family Christmas eve meal. And so on.

My mom and i started a tradition a few years ago before i left for Americaland, when on Christmas day itself we would make up a whole bunch of sandwiches and buy juice boxes and bags and drive around handing them out to homeless people we found on the streets [fun fact: any time you are actually looking for homeless people on the street, they are the hardest people to find] and this grew to a number of people helping out with money or time and getting involved.

My beautiful wife Valerie [tbV] was the instigator of a number of special Christmas times overseas inviting in friends and strangers to share Christmas with us and creating beautiful traditions to help us celebrate or mourn things from the year that has passed and look for hope and share dreams for the year that is to come.

It is a great time to slow down and remember the Jesus story [whenever He was actually born], how it is announced with the words ‘For God so loved…’ and how Jesus echoed the words ‘You will be known by the love you have for each other’ later, just before He died, with the words, ‘Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.’ A reminder that our love for others is but a pale reflection of all the love He has already shown for us.

A reminder that ‘the love of Jesus’ is a much stronger force than ‘the spirit of Christmas’ and how it should inform and empower our lives and decisions every single day, not simply once a year. A reminder that the football match means nothing if the day before and the day after are filled with killing those you were playing against.

So Christmas itself is not good, bad or ugly. We make it that. Our choices and decisions over the next month determines how life-transforming or simply self-indulgent this year’s celebration will be. And i would love to hear again from you, the traditions and ideas and actions you plan to take this year to bring the YOU firmly into the middle of the season.

Who will you invite? What will you sacrifice? Where will your invitations be extended? What life and joy and hope and peace will you be in the middle of creating for those around you?

After all, Christmas has to be more than this:


[You may also enjoy my Open Letter to Brett Fish at Christmas post]

christmastime approaches

bringing with it good cheer

peace and joy to all mankind…

or something like that


but who is this ‘all mankind’

this christmastime is bringing its good cheer to?

is it to all those who receive a bonus check

that will enable them to stockpile gifts their children want

but certainly don’t need?

is the cheer on tap for all those who will lie cursing

their overflowing bellies

having made the trip back for the overflowing plate of thirds

they promised they would not eat this year?

or for those returning gifts to the store the day after

in order to get a totally different thing they wanted

that nobody had the decency to think of getting them?


or could it perhaps be

that this christmastime

there is the opportunity

to get it right?


what would it look like I wonder

if instead of no rooming it in this inn

we decided rather to extend an invitation

to the young pregnant couple we just heard knocking at our door?


who might that couple look like to us?

who might that couple look like to me?


and who might be the ‘we’ we could invite

to be a part of this transformational Christmas delight?

might it be friends or family, a combination of the two?

might it look like members from my sports team of colleagues from my job?

what manner of creativity could I dig into,

to figure out who this year’s co-conspirators might be?


and I do say ‘this year’s’


because I am well aware

that if I could extend my personal reach

to look beyond myself,

gather up some fellow plotters of goodness

and throw the dinner to end all dinners

for someone or ones most unlikely

to be the recipients of this any other way…

that this would not be the last time I would choose to celebrate this way


and maybe, if I dug even deeper still and found a way for them to be involved

in preparing the food

or perhaps being a part of the entertainment for the evening

of sharing in both the creation and break down of the day

instead of simply sitting off to the side somewhere

as I casually toss a leftover coin from my purse into their hat

well then, who knows the possibilities?


awkward? possibly.

uncomfortable? likely so.

a bother to pull together? oh absolutely.


so if you’re wanting to receive what you have always gotten

if you’re wanting to achieve what you have always seen

the trick would be putting all of this out of your memory

making as if you’d never come across these words

uttering a silent curse at the one who brought them across your path

and putting it all down to guilt tactics

or condemnation

and “I don’t live in condemnation” you will say

quite loudly and quite often

so as to try convince yourself

of the very opposite you know to be the very Truth…


you are trying so desperately to hide from:


I was hungry

I was thirsty

I was naked or sick or imprisoned or alone

And you…


you turned up the merry Christmas tunes

and poured yourself another glass of wine

and said a lovely prayer of Thanksgiving to God

to thank Him for all the blessings He has showered upon you.

Merry Christmas!

And to all?

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