Happy Christmas Scotland
There was a time when Christmas was either banned or hardly celebrated in Scotland. The late great Christopher Hitchens argued that this was because Scots Presbyterians were so against partying and drinking. He clearly had never been here on Hogmanay! I remember as a child thinking that New Year was far more important and exciting. Sometimes when I see the exploitation and farce of much of today's Christmas celebrations I am tempted to think that our forefathers had a point! However I believe they got it wrong and that Christmas is a wonderful time of year to remember the birth of Christ and to consider the light that has come into the darkness. Just as the wise men brought gifts to the baby Jesus, so he brings gifts to us.
Let's think about some of these gifts:
1) Equality – This is one of the great mantras of our society – and yet the more we shout about it, the less it happens. The gap between rich and poor increases and as this is accompanied by a decline in public services it means that for the poor it is even worse. Poorer education, poorer healthcare and poorer job opportunities are not good news for the poor. Our liberal elites talk about equality, but have failed to deliver it. So why does Christ deliver equality? Because all human beings are made in the image of God, all are created by him and for him, and all have the potential to be redeemed and renewed creatures fit for eternity.
2) Diversity – In theory we are all for diversity – but as I listen to the same opinions, delivered by the same people with the same certainty, in their own media ‘safe spaces’, I cannot but wonder how monochrome we are becoming as a society. Just as the ‘free market’ has meant the devastation of our high streets and the removal of diverse local shops, so the need to instill the new morality in our schools is reducing them to a monochrome dullness. Social media combined with the increasing power of the rich has resulted in a mob mentality which threatens anyone who dares to be against the ‘equality and diversity’ agenda, thus ironically seeking to prevent any real diversity from the social and moral mores handed down from those who govern us. In Christ things are different. There is real and genuine diversity. Because we are in him we don’t have to be all the same.
3) Liberty – Freedom. What a great word! One that still needs to be rescued from the strangled cries of Mel Gibson. Tom Nairn thought he knew what would bring freedom to Scotland – “Until the last minister is strangled with the last copy of the Sunday Post, Scotland will never be free”. Well, the decline of the Church of Scotland means that, despite a clever and somewhat desperate advent advertising campaign, the last minister may not be too far away. And the decline of the mainstream print media suggests that Mr Nairn’s wish may come true in this respect as well. But is Scotland a freer place? Do people feel free? Or is it the case of ‘meet the new boss, same as the old boss”? Christ on the other hand brings real freedom. Freedom from guilt, freedom from the power and consequences of sin and freedom from the conformity of a stifling and overpowering culture. When the Son sets you free, you are free indeed. Incidentally as surely as Christmas comes round once a year, so every year a story will be printed about a clergyman who rejects the nativity as history and tells us all that if only we see it as a mythical tale designed to tell us to be nice to the poor, then the Church will flourish. The proof of this particular Christmas pudding is in the eating. Those who preach this ‘non’ message are emptying their churches. It’s like having Christmas wrapping without a present inside. If we want to be free then we need the real Christ, not the mythical Santa Claus one given us by ‘liberal’ clergymen, who deny the very Lord they are supposed to proclaim.
Of course there are many other gifts we could mention that come along with Christ. We are in sore need of the fruit of the Spirit – love, joy, peace, patience, goodness, kindness, gentleness and self-control. There are also the gifts of his word, his day and his grace.
It is my prayer that the people of Scotland will receive these gifts and that we will be a better and happier place when we come to this point again next year. Of course all the gifts are dependent on the greatest gift of all – Christ himself. That is what Christmas is all about. Whatever other gifts we receive let us pray that we will all receive Him in all his beauty, gentleness and glory. As the carol says ‘where meek souls will receive him still, the dear Christ enters in”.
Rev David Robertson is Moderator of the General Assembly of the Free Church of Scotland