Christmas Cards are going to start dropping through our letter box soon.
I know Christians often complain about the cards with Santa, Elves, etc, that these cards are distorting the real message of Christmas. I often wonder if the cards that have nativity scenes may being doing the same.
I wonder if the pictures of Jesus birth on Christmas cards have emasculated, domesticated and sentimentalised the real story and tidied up or removed the elements of the story that we might find a bit “uncomfortable” or “disconcerting.”
Let’s think about the Christmas story according to Christmas cards
The Christmas Story according to Christmas Cards has a stable which seems to be entirely free of animal manure. Who knows, maybe the owner brought in a gang of cleaners before he let Mary and Joseph use it, or maybe the cattle and donkeys were toilet trained?
The animals who appear on Christmas cards but not in the actual Gospel stories, appear so clean that they look like they have just been groomed and won first prize at some ancient agricultural show.
Likewise, the shepherds, despite to all in intents and purposes having been living rough in the hills, look clean and tidy. The wise men, look like they have been dressed by some first century AD predecessor to Ralph Lauren, they are all bright colours and expensive fabrics.
In contrast the Christmas story in the Gospels couldn’t be any less sentimental or sanitised, in fact there is almost a darkness to it.
Mary and Joseph are undertaking a fairly arduous journey, but they aren’t gap year students having an adventure holiday or a couple having a happy jaunt to visit relatives. This poor couple are being forced to make the trip against their will and have been made temporarily homeless all because of actions of an oppressive occupying power who wants to wring more money out of them.
Despite hospitality being legendary in the Middle East, the Gospels tell us that this young couple who are so desperately in need of somewhere to stay find most of Bethlehem distinctly inhospitable. The impression given is that Bethlehem is apathetic about Mary and Joseph and their desperate predicament.
The story gets darker as it progresses.
Generally, Christmas cards show the Wise Men and Shepherds turning up after Jesus is born. What Christmas cards miss out from the real Christmas story is Herod’s Hitmen arriving in town. These heartless thugs turn up on the orders of one of the cruellest tyrants of the day Herod the “Great”. Herod. Herod had decided to eliminate all the children under two to make sure he took out the Messiah who it had been rumoured has been born in Bethlehem. The “Slaughter of The Innocents” is a scene from the Christmas story I am pretty sure won’t be on a card on your mantelpiece this year.
The Christmas Story sort of rounds off with Mary, Joseph and Jesus fleeing for their lives as homeless refugees, not exactly “happy ever after” stuff
Fairy tales end in “happy after ever” rereading the story of Jesus’ birth reminded us that this is no fairy tale.
Jesus is born into the real world. A world of oppression, dirt and filth, poverty, violence, evil and apathy not the pristine cute world of the Christmas card. It reminds me of how much changes as history rolls on and how little changes as history rolls on.
Two thousand years later here in Europe, families are still fleeing as refugees and innocent children are still dying on the orders of a ruthless tyrant.
Its ok to display our Christmas cards but if you want to know about the authentic Christmas story, Matthew, Mark and Luke are the places to look.
Why not make sure you read them this year
This is so good. Excellent advice to read the gospels. Thank you!
Thank you ! 🙂