I guess for me Christmas brings to a head many of the issues which face Christians who want to work out their faith in our culture. Christmas is a heightening of the two forces competing for my allegiance - on the one side is the celebration of consumption - gorging on trinkets while the world starves. On the other hand, it is a celebration of the nuclear family and moral middle-class religious values and the words 'Christ' and 'Jesus' banded about for good measure. The world, of course, still starves as we get het up about whether we say 'Xmas' or 'Christmas'.
Bizarrely, these two celebtrations are merged in my experience into an orgy of consumption and religiousity. These two value systems are the bane of my life - a materialistic world, and a religiousity that is not engaged with it.
But I must confess to having had a decidely negative response to these alternatives in the past. I have been keen to say what Christmas is not, but what is it?
To ask this question slightly differently, isn't Christmas really about 'peace on earth'? I mean, no war, a radical non-violence. Isn't that what the non-violent 'armies of heaven' (Luke 2:13) were singing about?
Isn't Christmas about the birth of an alternative - Jesus, Son of God, not Augustus, Son of God? Isn't it the start of a life of the cross, rather than the sword?
Isn't Christmas about a turning upside down of values (and surely these values today are consumerist, militaristic and religious)? Isn't it about the coming of one who will level the mountains and raise up the valleys? (Isa. 40:30-35) Or, to use Mary's words during her pregnancy, isn't it about the one who "has brought down rulers from their thrones... filled the hungry, but has sent the rich away empty. (Luke 1:51-52)
Nothing could stand in more contrast to modern-day Christmas than filling the hungry, whilst sending the rich away empty. Dare we do that this Christmas?
So, my suggestion is that in our first regular monthly meet-up (1st Monday in December) we think about what we can do to liberate Christmas from religiousity or consumerism and enable it to be truly liberating and becomes a celebration of the values we reallly do cherish. What rituals, actions would most embody our values? My suggestion is that people bring with them resources, ideas, stories (from the Bible or not), suggestions (however emryonic), opinions as a basis for discussion. Or, failing that, just bring themselves.