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Leader comment: Yes, be happy at Christmas

22 December 2023

CHRISTMAS is cancelled. . . The misery, death, and destruction in the Holy Land weighs heavily on the world this year. But it would be wrong to elevate the suffering and bereavement there above similar agonies around the world. Oppression and conflict are constantly inflicted upon people in places without religious sig­nificance or media attention. There is, in consequence, no year when a festival of forgetful, excessive self-indulgence can be justified, and if that is all Christmas is, then it should be banned per­manently.

But Christmas is not celebrated despite the troubles in the world but because of them. The theological weight of God’s choice to appear, helpless, in an occupied land must be em­­phasised afresh each year. His birth in the midst of danger provides the salve that a heedless world still needs, and the forces invoked by the Virgin Mary in the Magnificat are still at work.

It is all right, then, to be happy? Like the artists who peppered their nativity paintings with momento mori, Christians cannot celeb­rate Christ’s birth without knowing that death awaits him — as it awaits all of us. But the resurrection robbed death of its dominion. That leaves us free to celebrate the myriad human-scale mani­festations of God’s great generosity.

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