Last week, if you choose to look at it this way, Boris Johnson became the first political leader since Oliver Cromwell to impose significant legal restrictions on the celebration of Christmas.
The motivation is very different. Oliver Cromwell had theological and moral objections both to the observance of Christmas and to the way in which it was celebrated. Boris Johnson, by contrast, is motivated by medical and political considerations.
We’re not there yet, of course, but when Christmas does come again this year, it seems likely that we will not be able to do a great many of the things that make it feel like Christmas. We won’t be able to sing carols together, or have large family gatherings, or attend church without restrictions on numbers and on how we worship. It will be a blue Christmas.
Will you forgive me if I admit that I’m ever so slightly relieved? Perhaps you will if I explain why.
One reason is that each year, we find that our observation of the season of Advent is swamped by premature Christmas celebrations. But Christmas without Advent is like being given the answer without knowing what the question was, and we all need a more thorough engagement with Advent than simply opening a few doors on a calendar.
Another reason is that for the holy family the first Christmas was actually a fairly wretched affair, and many in our current world share that experience. Too often we treat the Christmas season as an excuse for giving more attention, energy and money to what we already over-prioritise – ourselves, our families, our friends – when the truth of Christmas is that God did the very opposite of that.
I’m not trying to be a killjoy, but to point to a possibility. There might be a deeper joy, a richer satisfaction, in having some of the trimmings stripped away so that the essential miracle of Christ’s birth can shine all the more brightly.
May God bless you all,