You sometimes hear that Christmas is all about Jesus. I'm not sure that's entirely true.
Sometimes you hear that Christmas is about family. Or about Santa, and about lots of good things to eat and drink – about being generous to the people we love, and about remembering the needs of those who don't have enough. About hospitality and laughter and being grateful that we have other people in our lives. About celebrating the first steps of the newest members of our families, and reminding ourselves of the lifelong love that has been the gift of our elders. I think that's what God thinks Christmas is about, too.
Other times, you hear that Christmas is about community, about reminding ourselves that despite differences of language or skin colour or religion – we are all brothers and sisters, united by our common humanity. About claiming the possibility and the urgency of peace - despite the deepest conflict that continues to shape our world. About claiming the wonder and beauty of our fragile planet and all its countless creatures and living systems - despite our struggle to live in ways that nurture and protect it. I think God agrees with that as well.
Christmas, in short, is the rejection of cynicism and the commitment to hope. The rejection of everything in our world – and in ourselves – that is manipulative and violent and self-centred and unjust. And the commitment to finding ways to live that are generous and inclusive, and healing and forgiving.
I don't actually think Christmas is about Jesus. I think Christmas is about us - just God's way of telling us all this – about us. The most ancient story of Christmas-time tells us quite simply that God can think of no better way of telling human beings how loved we are – than by taking on our own humanity. Which means that the love that wove the whole universe together is now a part of our own human DNA. And that human spirituality is to be found in our relationships and the physical circumstances of our lives – it means that to be authentically human is to be oriented towards hope, towards wholeness and towards others. Even when we fail – which of course we do all the time – deep down we still know this to be true.
Christmas is God's way of saying, 'you are not alone. I love you.' And Christmas unites us – men and women of all faiths and of none – in recognising this truth about one another and about ourselves, that we are not alone, that to be human is to be loved. That for all our fragility and foolishness, to be human is to have meaning and purpose.
Christmas is a gift that comes around once a year, a mirror that we hold up to ourselves that shows us who we most truly are. A gift that reminds us of what we already know – that our lives are lived to the fullest when we live for others. This year – receive the gift of Christmas.