Monthly Talking Point – December 2018

This months edition is provided by
Revd Derek Chandler

Magic Moments

‘Magic Moments’ sung by Perry Como in 1957 is a song we may associate with Christmas as it was used to sell ‘Quality Street’ chocolates in Christmas advertisements in the 1980’s. Christmas is a ‘magic moment’ that many people still celebrate each year. The trouble is it is often mixed with a lot of other stuff – overloaded – and not with presents. Tired? Troubled? Preoccupied with real life worries, so that the magic moment of Christmas still feels perhaps – just out of reach?

Part of the problem might well be our upbringing. From an early age we are presented with the idea that Christmas is a time for children. Now don’t get me wrong, I think the wonder and excitement that children bring to Christmas is brilliant, but it is not the whole story, and it reinforces the idea that Christmas is something you grow out of. I can understand why and that children’s nativity plays cannot contain the complex threads of the original Christmas story. What do I mean? Well, you only have to read the Bible for yourself to get the salient points: Mary is an unmarried teenage mother, engaged to be married, who for shame her betrothed husband Joseph initially considers renouncing her. If Joseph had done so, Mary would probably have been stoned to death. When Jesus is born there is literally no human place on Earth for him to stay, he sleeps in a manger, an animal feeding trough. At the news of the Magi, King Herod murders young children, not that different from brutal dictatorships to this day. Joseph and Mary are forced to become refugees. The real Christmas is hardly a children’s story!

For all the right reasons we protect children from the harsher elements of Christmas but for all the wrong reasons we forget what Christmas has to say to our adult world as we sentimentalise it. Sadly, that is only too clear to us when the bad things in life happen at Christmas: bereavement, illness, redundancy, homelessness, division. This is made worse by the reinforcing that we all have to be ‘jolly’ for a whole month of the year. Do you know how hard it is to be jolly all the time? All these anxieties of real life that have no room in our jolly commercial Christmas but are exactly the reason why God came to us, even when we make no room for Him, and not just at the Inn. Christmas is God’s love making itself vulnerable to us in our troubled world. Christmas in the Bible is an enormous risk and that is no surprise because at the heart of the story is childbirth – with all the anxiety and hope that comes with that. So one thing I do believe is that Christmas is more than a capturing of childhood wonder – it is about a future yet to be born. And for those in the nativity story who can see that, they discover a magic moment – even though it looks to the rest of the world like just another poor baby whose parents can’t even provide him with a bed for the night.

A while ago I went on a mindfulness course for clergy in Dorset. Mindfulness is a form of ancient meditation increasingly gaining credibility in medical circles. Basically it teaches the art of being in the present moment and seeing everything and everyone potentially as a gift. In other words, a ‘magic moment’. This might be easy to scoff at, but the more I hear of increasing depression and suicide rates, or domestic violence, homelessness, or mental health issues, especially at Christmas – the more I firmly believe that we need to cultivate the art of discovering ‘magic moments’. We certainly need to do something. Because what we are doing is literally making us ill. For me as a Christian it all begins at Christmas in a manger with a homeless baby and shepherds and magi and angels saying, “There is a magic moment – see it for all it’s worth – it could just change your life, and help change the world.”

However much we dress up the Christmas Nativity with tinsel and fairy lights, we cannot hide the real light that shines from the manger. Magic moments are not just to be discovered in church at Christmas, but in our life in the world – each day. For God loved the world so much that He dwelt among us in human form. His Spirit dwells among us now, and I am sure God provides magic moments for us to discover in the gift of each ordinary day. Just as God did over 2000 years ago in the birth of a child and all that followed from the cradle to the cross, and beyond. Magic moments that are like gifts, inviting us to receive and share them, helping to make the world a richer place for everyone.

Reverend Derek Chandler
Vicar at St Barnabas church Emmer Green.