Stockings, church, long wait for lunch, lunch, walk, presents, tea and fall asleep in front of an Agatha Christie murder mystery. That is the routine we followed in my family year after year, wherever we were living. It is hardwired into my DNA and I still find any diversion from that routine a real challenge. With apologies to my in-laws, doing things differently just doesn’t feel quite right.
Much has changed about Christmas since my formative years spent growing up in the 1980s. We send fewer Christmas cards, we do our shopping without having to get up and leave the house and Christmas lunch has become increasingly elaborate as we seek to mask the flavour of the sprouts. Perhaps this year, in keeping with the times, we should avoid Brussels altogether, it’s just too complicated!
Despite all of this change, I sense that we need Christmas traditions more than ever this year. We need time to reconnect with our traditions, to take time to listen to the well-worn stories of “Christmas in my day”, to play daft games and to spend too long sitting around a table, to argue and to apologise. To take a day or so to remember that we are connected to one another, that different generations see the world differently and to enjoy the moment of surprise when someone we don’t know that well takes a guess at what present to buy us and us them.
At a time when loneliness is starting to pose a threat to society’s overall well-being, we need to put down our phones and engage in a real sense with those in the room where we are. Taking time to physically engage with others is wrapped up in the DNA of Christmas. “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.” (John 1: 14)
As the Dean Close community scatters around the world this week, I hope that we will all enjoy some great laughs, survive the inevitable points of tension and start the New Year with a renewed sense of hope.