Let’s get this party started!
‘It’s the season to be jolly’, but have we forgotten the reason to celebrate?
This year is the last time the Girard Annual Christmas Open House will be held at my flat. It’s been a seven-year tradition: inviting everyone from church, work, school and university to see how many people can possibly fit into a 12×7 foot space.
The record is 29 at the same time and I did wonder if the floor would hold firm! It’s a little bit of giving and gospel, mixing it up between friends of all beliefs or none, giving food and extending invitations to the forthcoming Christmas carol service. The younger ones make things for the older, single people at church.
And it’s an opportunity to get people into contact with those in the community who they would rarely meet; bringing older Christians into contact with young, atheist neighbours, over hot honey-mustard sausages and a cat (reluctantly) dressed up as Santa Paws.
But, come 2013, nearly everything changes. The cat bolted out of the window last year in his suit and returned much later, hat-free. And next year I will be in my first marital home that, Lord willing, will be big enough to have a few more people in at the same time.
What will remain the same is that pre-party excitement: cleaning and clearing, putting up the tree and getting the food ready for the hungry hordes.
I prepare for days ahead. What games and prizes for the children? What crafts to get younger ones to make for older folk? What colour scheme will my creaking tree sport this time round (white, I think)?
Despite the small size of the room, the effort of preparation will be enormous and, as usual, I will pray that everyone has a good time.
All that preparation, all the provision, all the hustle and bustle of the party — and then, in a few hours, it is over — just a few black sacks full of odds and ends of pizza and cake. For the sake of a few hours’ festivities and fun, there have been hours of planning and afterwards a lot of clearing up.
It may seem that it’s not worth all the time and effort just for an evening and yet I do it every year. And I’m not the only one. Across this land, people are planning and preparing for their own Christmas parties.
Seventy million people in this nation will have the day off and most will be honouring tradition: a big roast meal, exchanging presents, spending time with their families and friends and watching television.
For many of these, a carol service is also a tradition and something to prepare for, whether dressing children in tinsel haloes or making hot fruit punch or singing old-time favourites.
But whether it’s the party, the carol service or the family meal, there’s always that empty feeling afterwards: clearing up, loneliness as people leave, a sense of anticlimax.
I guess if sausages, singing and cats dressed as Santa are the be-all and the end-all of the holiday season, then it is just that — a holiday season, built up to a frenzy and gone in a flash.
But if you consider the real meaning of Christmas — God preparing the way for thousands of years for an event that would have a lasting impact for the ages to come, then Christmas takes on a different meaning.
God prepared the world, through his prophetic Word, for a Saviour to come, telling Adam and Eve that one born of woman would ‘crush the head’ of our soul’s enemy (Genesis 3:15). God told Isaiah there would be one whose suffering would be in our place (Isaiah 53), bearing the punishment himself for the sins that we have
And then, one clear night, God’s Son came as one of us; born as one of us, willing to die for us — the eternal, ageless God sent in a moment, walking among us for 33 years, and then restored to the splendour of heaven after the agony of the cross.
Did Christmas stop the day after the angels sang and the shepherds adored? Did it last only until the death and resurrection of Christ? Throughout the ages, and even now, Christ is ‘interceding for us at the right hand of the Father’ (Romans 8:34) and has ‘gone to prepare a place for us’ (John 14:2).
God has spent eternity planning for the greatest event that this world shall ever see — the return of Jesus Christ for his people.
Christmas is just a foretaste of the heavenly joys that have been promised to all those who respond to God’s invitation. Amid all the preparation for your own festivities, will you spare a moment to consider the true meaning of Christmas — and RSVP to God’s call?