We are told, “7 pm on Christmas Day is just the right moment for a family bust up to happen.”  London’s Daily Mail says researchers who interviewed 2000 adults say, ”As Christmas day wears  on the likelihood of a family argument will grow stronger, peaking between seven and 9 pm, with as many as 25% of all Britons having an argument over  of all things,  what to watch on the telly.  It seems by that time of the day politeness and superficial chit chat will have worn thin.  Mind you according to the research fully 27% would rather see some of the old sentimental Christmas movie classics.  It seems they want a nostalgic shot in the arm so they can relive what in their minds seemed to be simpler and happier times. The yearning for joy still lingers in the human heart, and every year is used by retailers for leverage to get people to spend more than they can afford in the lead up to Christmas.  However, what gave the holiday season its cultural substance in the past seems to be rapidly disappearing.  The very season that’s meant to celebrate joy, peace and goodwill in the western world, is the same season in which growing numbers of families, marriages and long term relationships fragment and fall apart. 

 What is the connection between lost social cohesion,  lost joy, and the loss of the Christmas narrative?  In Canada for they now call the Christmas tree, a holiday tree.   Former Archbishop of Canterbury, Lord Carey said last week, “Britain has become ashamed of the Christian content of Christmas.” He said cards are being censored, school plays are being stripped of Christian content, Christian content in community decorations has been banned, and there is even a campaign to block the festival from the calendar.Pope Benedict felt it necessary to challenge the marginalisation of Christianity in Britain on his recent visit.  Lord Carey said the attempt to air brush the question of faith out of the picture is especially obvious this Christmas.  He asked “Do we really want to rebrand Christmas and empty it of its transcendent meaning, and ignore its significance for us spiritually today?”

Lord Justice Laws has come out in response to the good Archbishop  and said, “It would be deeply unprincipled for the law to protect Christian beliefs.”  It is a shame that the very system of belief that produced Western democracy is being undermined by so called progressive intellectuals, while the world views of those minorities that have been known to attack our way of life are being protected by law.  No wonder the Russian communist leader  V.I. Lenin called these western intellectuals ”useful idiots.”

 A Christmas based on consumerism, materialism and greed is producing its own unhappy fruit.   It is the same short term thinking and lack of spiritual values that produced the current global economic crisis that has taken the world to the brink.  We all want the benefit and fruit of Christianity – love, joy and peace, without the rest of the discipline and values that produce them  –  patience,  long-suffering,  goodness , humility  and self-control.  It is now clearer than it has ever been that we can’t enjoy the real peace and joy of Christmas, without the rest of the Christian narrative and the spiritual commitment it requires of us. Similarly there can be no real spirit of Christmas, without acknowledgement of the historic  life that inspired it.

The unique genius of the Christian story is that it shows the way to joy:

Happiness is when happenings are going the way our ego wants them to go; joy on the other hand is when real love shows us how to transcend ourselves for the sake of others.  This is what is at the core of all the founder of Christianity taught , lived and finally gave his life to demonstrate.

 Will  joy once again go missing for many this Christmas?

This is the festival that is meant to refresh our spirits and remind us that while selfishness destroys,  a generous spirit brings life and joy.  Maybe It’s not too late to stop and reflect on where our mindlessness  is taking us;  neither is it too late to change direction and rediscover the source of joy.

Let’s make sure this year there is room in the inn.