About time for more blogging. I am preaching the famous Isaiah 9 passage often used at Christmas this morning. As I prepared it struck me how easily Christians make Christmas so much less than it is out of familiarity. We kind of know what we are meant to do - regular things that need to go into services to make people feel happy, overly-familiar Bible passages. And we rarely go for the jugular in preaching in a the most challenging ways because its a nice family time when people would rather not have the socks challenged off them.
Which leaves me often feeling slightly empty after the whole experience. I love Christmas but too often get left with an anti-climatic "well is that it then?" wishing that it had been rather more than it was. More wonderful, more gripping, more thrilling. I want a time when my spirit soars, when my pulse races. Family parties and nativities and presents are lovely but they don't do that to me.
I think the reason is that Christians have turned Christmas into so much less than it is. I expect non-Christians to do that, but I think we do as well. We so easily create a sentimentalised version - carols and choirs, children's activities, mangers and babies - that is emotionally appealing but a million miles away from the life-changing, earth-shattering promises of Isaiah 9. If the birth of Jesus as the Bible presents him is anything it ought to be life changing. It ought to be world-changing.
I want Christmas to change my life. I want it to shape my worldview. I want it to affect my deepest longings and desires. I want it to speak authentically to my hurts and heartaches. I want it to tell me about a God who loves so much that he came for me. I want the perfect government by the Prince of Peace that Isaiah describes. I want to see his government spreading all over the world.
Oppression to freedom, darkness to light, death to life by the zeal of the Lord Almighty. That's the promise of Isaiah. I'm praying that in our church won't settle for the emotionally sentimental and mediocre at the expense of the blockbusting purposes of God this Christmas.