Jim Hopkins remembers Christmases past:
. . . Christmas always stirs strong feelings and vivid memories for me.
I grew up south of the tracks in Christchurch when coal was king and fired the steam trains that thundered through. Dad was the vicar at St Mary’s Addington and, for him, Christmas was one of the most important times of the year.
Which should come as no surprise, though it may do now.
A birth in Bethlehem is, after all, the reason we actually have a Christmas holiday. And that birth used to be an integral part of the celebration.
Recognised in school nativity plays, on the wireless, in newspapers, its story touched most people’s lives.
Mary and Joseph and the Three Wise Men shared the limelight with Mr Claus and his elves.
Needless to say, the vicar’s offspring took their place in the pews – along with the rest of the community. Service first, pud and presents later. That was the drill.
I can still see the interior of that old church, dark timber beams, dust motes drifting in the light filtered through stained glass windows. I can hear the carols. I can smell the Christmas lillies. These memories return every year, as time grows longer, becoming ever stronger.
But the Christmas I remember is a faded thing. As the churches have lost (or surrendered) their influence, so faith has left the festive season.
Christmas today is a strictly secular affair with scant public recognition of its religious roots. The establishment avoids them and the media simply ignores them.
Bad for business or just old hat, anything biblical is off the agenda. Those who run the fourth estate may argue that’s because fewer people say they’re Christian, to which the reply might be, maybe that’s because you’ve spent decades dismissing their beliefs.
Whatever the reasons, it saddens me that the spiritual dimension of Christmas has withered as it has. Because the nativity story literally marks the beginning of a faith which, whatever the woke folk may say, is a core piece of our heritage and the foundation of our morals, manners and laws. For that reason alone, it has a place on Christmas day. . .
A few days ago I read a media release from a government entity (which I now can’t find) explaining how it’s sensitive to employees who don’t celebrate Christmas.
Fair enough, but sensitivity shouldn’t mean pretending it’s something else, especially when it’s not applied to celebrations for other religions.
No-one pretends that Diwali isn’t a Hindu festival, we’re not asked to skirt round, we shouldn’t be offended if someone wishes us happy Hanukkah so why the pussy-footing around Christmas?
You don’t have to be a Christian to understand and acknowledge the reason for the season.
You don’t have to believe what Christians do.
And Christian or not, we’d all be better off with more reflection on the real message of hope, joy, peace and love.