WE HAVE nothing against Judy Garland, but her 1944 song “Have yourself a merry little Christmas”, written by Hugh Martin, encapsulates in its first line all that is wrong with the modern Christmas. For a start, of course, Christmas is not “little” to anyone with the slightest grasp of the incarnation. Yes, at that moment God was baby-sized, but his birth was world-changing. Our main objection, though, is to the idea that Christmas is something that you can have yourself. This is not to deny that many people can enjoy the festivities on their own; but, as at other times of the year, it is selflessness that redeems us, and opens us up to God’s generous indwelling. Wishing someone else to “have yourself” a merry Christmas misses the mutual care that the Holy Spirit desires of us.
The second line of the song (later changed to “let your heart be light”) was originally “it may be your last”. This idea certainly seems to drive the shopping frenzy in the long run-up to the festival. Everyone likes presents, but the giving and receiving of them must not distract us from the urgent care needed by those for whom those words might well be true. Christmas is not little when it prompts people to support those many charities that show God’s love in action. May it be so.