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Advent thoughts at a garden centre

The magic of Christmas

Have you ever been to a magical wonderland and sat in a synthetically produced grotto?    Have you ever seen Santa’s reindeers (plus sleigh) fly into a garden centre and rubbed noses with them?

When I was a kid the big Christmas annual excitement was having a photograph taken in a Bournemouth  department store. We would have a snowy background and I remember how my feet wouldn’t touch the ground as I perched on a bench beside my older sister. There weren’t any Santas in winter wonderland grottos nor reindeers flying into garden centres. ( I’m not sure garden centres had been invented in the late 50’s)

It was all pretty tame – and dear Grandad’s ginger beer and Nanny’s delicious Christmas dinner was the height of pleasure – along with a long anticipated toy if I was lucky. We would all snook together after the meal in the sitting room and watch Billy Smart’s Circus ( anyone remember that?) on the old black and white television.  Santa didn’t really get a look in although I remember putting out carrots and sherry (!) when my kids were young.

It seems that Santa really does grab the headlines now when it comes to the commercial Christmas. Adverts on TV invariably have him jollying about in front of supermarkets and chain stores and our local press gives a mid-November front page splash to his new magical wonderland Grotto that is at a garden centre not very far from here. He even arrived in the original Chitty Chitty Bang Bang ( not heard that in any rhymes before!) – maybe a first for East Anglia?

Anway, I must stop being a party pooper. I guess hundreds of kids and adults too are  enchanted by the ubiquitous Santa who can be everywhere all of the time during the festive season. He is always happy, brings us lots of goodies and is a pleasant distraction in a world which dawns each day with some story of sadness, suffering and war. Let’s loose ourselves in a magical make believe land for a while and then maybe we shall feel better able to cope with whatever life throws at us. The only trouble is, when January dawns, nothing really feels better and all the old anxieties and struggles are there.

Interesting when you think about it though.  Commerical Christmas happily uses the word Christmas ( literally the mass of Christ’s birth or nativity) ) in all of its frenetic selling tactics but completely misses out its true meaning. There is hardly a nativity scene to be spotted in any garden centre nor mention of  Jesus’ birth – it wouldn’t be “ PC”  I daresay to do so. And the trouble is, the story of Jesus’ birth to a poor couple in a dirty stable in a country thousands of miles from here at a time lost on us isn’t all that glamorous. True some schools still have a nativity play and if you try hard enough you will find Christmas cards on sale with a cheeky angel or cuddly lamb to entice you to buy. The churches still offer all sorts of traditional and not so traditional Christmas worship. But on the whole Christmas has become so secularized that it’s hard to spot the baby at the heart of it all. The people whose livelihood often depend on a profitable Christmas find a jolly figure in red sales more things than a tiny baby born two thousand years ago who so many have lost contact with – if ever they had it.

We don’t have to throw Santa out of the  Christmas hamper – but I long for Jesus Christ, The Son of God, to be given his rightful place at the heart of Christmas. He came, not in flashing glory with reindeer in attendance, but quietly in a bustling town in Palestine 2,000 years ago at a time of political unrest and poverty. So what? Another baby – one of billions ever born – what is all  the fuss about? Simply that Christians believe this child was God coming fully into our world  to bring us his presence – not presents that are quickly discarded but his presence that is with us for all time. A gift that is lasting, a gift that is so precious he was prepared to die for us to prove its truth.

Putting Jesus Christ at the heart of Christmas is what our churches are all about these coming weeks of Advent and Christmas – why not visit your local church this Christmas and experience some real Christmas magic.

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And below is the first nativity scene Ive seen in a garden centre this year – shame about the position though…….

Meanwhile, the old favourites are in plentiful evidence taking centre stage

He looks pretty sozzled before he even starts his ho ho ho…

A bauble fest

Newcomers to the Christmas fest – snow owls- quite a hoot this time of year.

Gone off  Santas a bit though – there was one outside St Neots Museum this afternoon and he asked me if I had any grandchildren and would they like to come and see his grotto? Huh! Im sure I dont look grandmother age surely???

Looking forward to our  Benefice Advent service tomorrow at 10.30am at Great Paxton – and my favourite hymn: Come Thou Long Expected Jesus.

Come, Thou long expected Jesus
Born to set Thy people free;
From our fears and sins release us,
Let us find our rest in Thee.

November 28, 2009 - Posted by | Uncategorized |

1 Comment »

  1. Our local garden centre was doing some late-night opening for Christmas a few years back, and wanted people to come and do some carol singing. We offered to do a Christingle service, and they said yes immediately. It’s now a standard part of their Christmas, and pulls in a good crowd, as well as a bit of business for the centre. About 1/3 of my Christmas services this year are in non-church buildings: garden centre, community hall, College etc.

    Comment by David Keen | December 1, 2009 | Reply


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