I grew up with Summer Christmases. Mangoes for breakfast. Roast Turkey for lunch (never mind that it’s 40 degrees/100F outside). Backyard cricket. Swims and BBQs. And I loved them. But I’ve been thinking recently. Theologically, a summer Christmas is a contradiction in terms.
People walking in darkness have seen a great Light. On those living in the shadow of death a Light has dawned. (Isaiah 9:2)
The rising Sun will come to us from heaven, to shine on those living in darkness and in the shadow of death. (Luke 1:78-79)
The Light shines in the darkness. (John 1:5)
Christmas begins in the dark. The context for Christmas is ignorance, rebellion, captivity and death. Christmas is a celebration that finds no justification in earthly circumstances. All around is darkness and death. The only possibility for joy lies outside. Christmas celebrates an other-worldly Light dawning from on High.
Christmas is not the celebration of our sunny circumstances. Nothing in our grasp is true justification for Christmas joy. Not family, not friends, not gifts, not health, wealth, success or acclaim. Only Christ coming from beyond our circumstances – like light into darkness – only He makes a Christmas.
Yet in the Southern Hemisphere we celebrate Christmas as though we were celebrating our happy environs – and ignore the darkness.
But the solution is not to move to the Northern Hemisphere. Yesterday I saw a magazine advertisement, all festive colours, snow, scarves, hot drinks and the slogan said "Happy Winter."
Happy Winter!!? What's happy about winter? Narnia's fall was all winter and no Christmas. But this advertisement was selling exactly that! What's happy about winter? Well, the advertisement suggested the answer. We ought to turn to family, friends and fesitivities to try to generate our own light. We'll wrap up warm and ignore the darkness.
But no - the true Light is not found in sunny circumstances, nor in cosy huddles - it's found outside our own circumstances.
If we truly embraced this then:
A) We would stop being idolaters – worshipping family, feasting and festivities.
B) We would be able to truly enjoy family, feasting and festivities since we recognize that such things are not our Saviour – but Christ, the LORD is.
C) We would have good news of great joy for all people, including the grieving and suffering. People need to know that Christmas is for people in dark places. All is darkness around – let’s not pretend any different. But the Other-worldly Light has dawned. Look to Him.