Christmas is Coming: But do we really need the nativity story?

AdventMost of us look forward to Christmas each year. A recent poll revealed why people continue to love the festive season. The reasons were varied – time with family, giving gifts, the food and drink, catching up with old friends, watching children opening their presents, good television, and so on. The “real meaning” of Christmas, however, was positioned lower down in the list. For many, Christ is slowly being relegated from the Christ-mas season.

ricky gervais christmasIn a promotional video for their internet podcast, which has been downloaded over 300 million times, the comedian Ricky Gervais quizzes his radio producer and friend Karl Pilkington on the significance of the nativity story. Pilkington’s answer is revealing and reflects an increasing trend in society’s attitude towards the festive season: ‘[The nativity] is not important. It’s so not important this story. I don’t need an old story… I could do without it. If someone said we’re getting rid of it, I’d go “all right”’.

Those of us who are Christian, though, know very well that the nativity is not simply an ancient story from a dusty old book. The incarnation is about experiencing Christ now. A wonderful consequence of the ‘Word made flesh’ is that Jesus is still involved in a dynamic relationship with the world. After all, God did not only reside in human form for a fleeting thirty-three years, but is still engaged in every part of our everyday lives.

Real God in the Real WorldThe BRF Advent book for 2013, Real God in the Real World, encourages us to use our festive season to recognise Christ in the world around us – not only in our prayer and worship, but also in the beauty of nature, in the friends and family with whom we celebrate the season, and in our everyday activities over the Christmas period and beyond.

Each day we are given a thoughtful consideration of a Bible passage. This will explore the passage through poetry, literature, film, or a lively anecdote, as the scripture is brought to new life. Each day also includes a practical application of the passage’s reflection, to aid us in discovering Jesus’s presence over the festive season. Thus, as we journey through Christmas together, we will start to open our eyes, ears, and hearts to Christ all around us, and, as we do, we will find that the Word is still becoming flesh today!

Real God in the Real World can be purchased directly from BRF, from Amazon, or from your local bookstore. It can be used as for personal reflection or, by using the group discussion questions at the back of the book, it could be used in an Advent group.

Advent 2

6 thoughts on “Christmas is Coming: But do we really need the nativity story?

  1. Over the years I have surprised friends and associates at finding Gervais more as an annoyance. Perhaps, as a society we have taken mediocrity for granted. He belongs in that Olympic sized pool of mediocrity somewhere surrounded by sychophants who in turn ‘like’ each utterance and gesture, even the downright rude behaviour in award ceremonies. But, this blog post is not about Gervais, but about the significance of the origin of Christianity to what has become, in UK at least, a commercial opportunity.

    I write here as a non-Christian. As the market forces have evolved and turned society into a consumer-driven phenomenon, the act of faith or any semblance of it has become nothing more than an opportunity. We buy ‘things’ to make our lives easier with the increasingly higher levels of expendable income that comes our way each year. This concept of making life easier is actually multifaceted in itself. The easier isn’t about reducing the chores any more but it is about having events and activities that could occupy each and every spare moment of the non-working day. The smartphone with social media apps, the games console, faster, prettier, more energy efficient cars, the concept of fashion and all its trapping, form part of a bubble that we accept as the social necessity of existence. Nobody questions this new and acceptable norm. Several weeks ago the online version of the Daily Telegraph reported on a story of a Stylites – a hermit who chooses to spend his time in contemplation on top of a pillar or elevated rock. The scorn directed at this monk within the comments forum was shocking. Some Christians were doubting his ingherent reasons for being on top of that pillar instead of working in the community. The non-religionists were reflecting upon his madness. Yet, what he is doing is very similar to what our expendable income allows us to do within the confines of the games console – it is to find some element of affirmation and consolation in who we are, and what we are able to do. The only difference being that we have been suckered into buying that console after watching thousand of hours of adverts in the middle of some reality television show or music competition and the stylite is find that consolation through refusing to be part of our consumerist society.

    There is an ultimate goal and sense of purpose in each one of us whether we are aware of it or not regardless of the arguments put forward by deteminists. Yet, each day little more of that goal is being colluded by the economic means of existence that we have come to rely upon. The act of giving gifts has lost it symbiotic significance to charitable giving. The consumer driven world that Gervais is part of has given rise to new needs, new despairs and new sense of fulfillments that we are led to interpret as the norm, and ultimately, as an irreligious experience of Christmas.

    There is a but to all this. The concept of the post-scarcity society isn’t really a Marxist invention or linked to the means of production and income. Fashion changes and we evolve a little more each day. Hegel’s ‘historicism’ in simplistic terms was the realisation that his generation was the pinnacle of human development. We in turn see ourselves being in that state. Furthermore, those who come after us will feel exactly the same. We just evolve each day and potentially, get a little bit better. There is hope for the next generations of Gervais and the belief in the significance of Nativity. We shall get over our consumerist needs one day and be able to contemplate all that is there to contemplate like our friend the priest in Sinai. Who knows, the end of consumerism and games consoles may also lead to a cessation of the inner need to attend comedy gigs, download interviews with comedians and laugh with mediocre comedians. Perhaps, this state would allow us to laugh at them instead. I wonder what Gervais thinks of Aristophanes and Greek comedy..

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