Letter from Aaron Kennedy – Vicar of Otley Parish Church
Putting the “Christ” back in “Christmas”?
This phrase was so overused in my youth that I think we all lost touch with any sense of what it means. Latterly, it seems to have been reduced to making sure your chocolate advent calendar has a picture of the nativity on it.
But ought we to bring back this catchy phrase, perhaps reinvented a little?
“Putting the Christ back in Christmas” means connecting how we celebrate, with why we celebrate. This of course means finding ways to tell the Christmas story afresh for this time and for new generations, but it means more than that as well. It means celebrating in a way that is in keeping with our vocation as Christians to care for the world we live in and all the people in it, and our calling to live simply and with self-control.
Even those of us who are usually striving to live lives that are environmentally friendly, generous and ethical, can find ourselves tempted to abandon these principles in the festive season, as we seek to make things special for ourselves and our loved ones with lots of presents, excessive food and drink, and glitzy decorations. But does that really do justice to what we’re celebrating? A saviour born to a poor family who would become refugees? A God who loved the world so much that he was born here to save it?
Perhaps a more Christ shaped Christmas means finding a way to celebrate it that isn’t at the expense of other people, or the earth. With that in mind here are a few suggestions:
- Re-use your Christmas decorations rather than buying new ones – especially plastic ones – as plastic will be here for life not just for Christmas!
- Buy organic and local if you can – to reduce the impact your food has on the environment and the species that live in it. Cook a little less meat, and a few more local veggies.
- Try to resist the urge to buy new clothes, especially if you’ll only wear them once or twice. The fashion industry is one of the biggest contributors to climate change and modern slavery!
- Choose recyclable wrapping paper (the less shiny stuff, with no sparkly bits), and send less Christmas cards.
- Look for palm oil free mince pies!
An eco-friendly, ethical Christmas doesn’t have to be more expensive! Simple can still be special. Consider one really thoughtful gift, rather than a shower of presents, or cooking only what you think might actually be eaten, rather than over-catering and wasting food.
If you’re able to, please be generous to churches and charities this Christmas. Many are having a hard time at this time of year, and resources are needed to keep everyone safe, warm and able to rejoice.
This year be kind to the planet, give to the poor, cherish your loved ones, spend time with the lonely, embrace those who are grieving, pray for those you find it hard to get along with, because that’s where you’ll really find Christ this Christmas.