(This was my Thought For The Day on Good Morning Ulster (BBC Radio Ulster) on December 4th 2020...)
As a minister can I confess that sometimes I prefer Shane Magowan’s Fairytale Of New York than many Carol Services.
Oh I have friends rolling their eyes right now. They hate the Magowan classic… but let me explain.
Some Carol Services for me are a little clinical and perfect. I have sat through quite a few and wondered if any of the truth being read is evident in the sentimental fuzzy wuzzy atmosphere around me.
Over the centuries the church has done a lot to domesticate Christmas and the Jesus at the centre of it.
It is as if Mary experiences no birth pains and Joseph has an extra mural in midwifery. The animals, not actually in the Bible readings, seem a little perfumed and blow dried. We even have a carol that talks about the baby “no crying he makes”. What. For goodness sake give me some reality!
Shane Magowan doesn’t give us any Jesus but he does give us a whole dose of reality. His song has us in a drunk tank on Christmas Eve. There’s shouting and swearing and a very broken world.
If we look around us there is a lot of reality in Christmas 2020. Many people are not going to get spending it with their families. More people are at food banks than ever before. High Streets are not only quiet but some big names have just gone to the wall. The implications of job losses are massive.
Of course I am not saying that we don’t need carol Services. We have a few crackers lined up on line in Fitzroy. BUT I am saying that unless we set the good news and peace that the angels sang about into the reality going on around us then we have something less than an authentic Christmas.
I believe that this Jesus wants to enter all of our realities, to bring hope and love and justice and salvation not just to individuals but to high streets, communities and nations.