Saying “Merry Christmas” seems such a cliché.
A simple throw away line.
A casual greeting or farewell, said without much thought or purpose.
Familiarity and over-use seem to have robbed the words of any power
to speak to our hearts.

But Christmas is so much more complex,
both theologically, socially and personally.

At a social level it brings communities together and tears families apart.
Most of us don’t live in the fairytale happy families of the Christmas card.
Time and distance and busy lives mean that we often only see our extended families at Christmas, weddings and funerals.
Childhood rivalries and long-ago hurts, both real and imagined
are too difficult to resolve in the short conversations around the Christmas table,
and so we fall into the safety of banal, superficial conversations
about sport, our work, crops, children, our favourite TV shows
and the weather.

At a personal level Christmas and New Year mark endings.
It’s a time to look back on the year gone by;
success, failure, and transitions.
It can be a very difficult time if the year has bought pain and loss.
Many of us personally and within our immediate family and friends
have lived with the anxiety of disease,
often it’s the “not knowing”; the tests, the waiting
that plays with the demons in our soul
as much as the diagnosis and treatment.
Some have lost a loved one
and Christmas can be a very difficult time
not just because of our grief,
but because the dynamics of all the little rituals
of meals and presents and family gatherings
have changed and seem somehow broken.

In all of this what does “Merry Christmas” mean, if anything?

Bring the meaning of Christmas to your family gatherings,
by truly being “with them”
try to be truly present, in the now.
Practice responding to what is not being said,
listen to the silences.
It has been well said that “The friend who can be silent with us in a moment of despair or confusion, who can stay with us in a hour of grief and bereavement,
who can tolerate not knowing… not healing…not curing…
that is a friend indeed.”

God with us (Emmanuel)
God is with us.
Merry Christmas to all”
and thank you for letting me share in your lives.

Brian Spencer