The Real Meaning of Christmas
By Canon Mark Collinson, Christ Church Amsterdam
2014 has been marked by the centenary anniversary of the start of the Great War in 1914. Remembrance Sunday is always significant for Brits, not least because of the seriousness with which Queen Elizabeth II takes the ceremony at the Cenotaph in London.
Ceremonies in the Netherlands and across Europe have taken place remembering the lives of those who died not just in the First World War, but in all wars since then. Apparently, despite the scientific progress of humanity, the twentieth century saw more people die in wars and internal conflict than any previous century. Even if this was a smaller proportion of the world’s population than in previous centuries, it gives little cause for comfort.
A couple of weeks ago I was privileged to be part of the MH17 National Commemoration in the RAI. I met some of the British and local relatives of the 298 innocent victims. They were victims of someone else’s war – as is so often the case of civilians caught in the crossfire. It was moving to hear about how they realised that their loved ones were on that flight, and what it meant to face the loss of a son or daughter, a sister or brother. I give credit to John Cameron-Webb, the British Consul, and his team, for their excellent organisation in getting the relatives of the British victims to that event.
There is so much tragedy in the world – so much bad news that hits the headlines. It’s not so often that the peacemakers get remembered and celebrated. Where is the good news this Christmas?
You may have heard of the story of the Christmas truce on the first Christmas Day of the First World War. It had been agreed to have a day off from fighting, and when one soldier kicked out a football in to no-man’s land, it resulted in a kick around between the two sides. (It is reported the Germans won 3-2).
Christmas is traditionally a time when we remember peace and goodwill. A time to stop fighting, and make peace, and find some stillness in your heart. This is because the real meaning of Christmas is found in connecting with Jesus Christ. Christians claim that he was the son of God, born as a completely normal human being, but who has as much God in him as you could possibly pack into a person. People who met him were healed, set free from the past experiences that had wounded them, and everyone wanted to invite him to their parties. Jesus was a peacemaker, who also made the ultimate sacrifice – that of giving his own life so that others can live.
It’s a bit of a mystery how Jesus’ life, death and resurrection still reverberate with people today. Christmas is the time when we remember his birth, by pitching up to church and singing a few carols. I encourage you to connect with any of the various English-speaking services happening this Christmas.