This festive season is something to smile about

I don’t mean to sound grumpy but I’m getting a bit bored with Christmas, writes Peterborough Cathedral Canon Missioner Sarah Brown.

Thursday, 19th December 2019, 12:30 pm
Sarah Brown, Canon Missioner at Peterborough Cathedral

Now, before some of you start expressing the wish that I might choke on my own bah humbug, let me clarify. I LOVE Christmas but must confess that my enthusiasm for Christmas marketing is at a low ebb.

I was moderately amused during October half-term when a friend encountered some poor sap in a supermarket, dressed as a completely unconvincing Santa, inviting children to tell him what they wanted for Christmas. “Why don’t you give them their ruddy Easter egg at the same time?” enquired my friend sarcastically.

The abusive nature of the response confirmed my friend’s direst suspicions. This was not the real Santa being super-organised and getting started early to keep up with population growth but (gasp!) an imposter.

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I get it. I really do. I used to be a marketer myself. I understand the game, but it all seems a bit desperate. A personal highlight this year is the offer of a ‘Christmas sparkle package” from a dental practice offering to polish up my teeth “ready for festive smiling”. I like that. “Festive smiling” carries just the slightest hint of Herodian menace, like a crocodile in a paper hat.

I’m going to practice over the next few days. But apart from that toothsome offer, I must confess that I am already bored by cute-but-incontinent infant dragons and supermarket families and twinkly fairies and tedious meaningless adverts for perfumes and silky smooth liqueurs and silky smooth legs and silky smooth deodorants that won’t mark your silky smooth fabric-softened little black dress and myriad other things with the flimsiest possible connection to a festive season so far from most people’s reality that it hurts.

Yet, in the middle of it all is Christmas day. A single day, as far as most people are concerned (though the Church disagrees,) on which we celebrate the breaking-through of heaven to earth and the painful, messy birth 2000 years ago of a baby into the chaos and politics and brutality of human life.

That is the weird thing about Christmas day. It is just one day, probably not even the right day, almost sunk without trace in a two month babble of festive hype; a single day with eternal consequences because of who that baby turned out to be, and what he did for you and me. From birth in a stable to death on the cross, to the beginnings of a new heaven and a new earth, yet to be completed under a returned Saviour. One day that is, in its ramifications, eternal.

My colleagues and I would love to see you at your Cathedral to celebrate the joy and hope of Christmas and its promise of peace and goodwill to all people. Whether or not you think you “do” God, you are welcome. Bring the children to the Christingle tomorrow evening, or wrap up warmly on Monday for our first outdoor nativity. Let the children come dressed as angels, shepherds, sheep or stars. It will be freezing cold but fun. Come on Christmas Eve or Christmas day and sing carols and light candles in honour of the Son of God born among us.

And, if you are really lucky, you might get an early preview of my Festive Smiling! Happy Christmas.