This is Simon Woodman's Pause for Thought from today's Roger Royle programme on Radio 2. Reproduced on the Hopeful Imagination blog with kind permission from the BBC. You can listen again here, 30 minutes into the show.
Good morning, and happy Christmas.
It’s a strange day, Christmas day, isn’t it? I mean, at one level it’s a day like any other, falling rather predictably between the 24th and 26th days of the 12th month. But at another level it’s a day like no other.
We’ve been building up to it for weeks, months even, and the sense of anticipation has been mounting inexorably. From garish grottos in garden centres, to cheesy canned Christmas music round every corner, there has been no escaping the increasingly imminent arrival of Christmas day itself.
And now it’s here, it’s arrived. So happy Christmas.
And what, I wonder, will today hold? Giving? Receiving?; Eating? Drinking?; Family? Loneliness?; Happiness? Sadness? For each of us, today will bring a unique mixture of emotions and activities. But then, as quickly as it began, it’ll all be over. The day passes, and we wonder where on earth it went.
And also, we might wonder, what on earth it meant? Dinah Washington famously sang ‘What a difference a day makes’, and we might well ask this as a question of Christmas day. Just what difference does this one day make?
Within the Christian tradition, Christmas is a day of celebration, but it’s also a day of remembrance. It points back in time to another day, long past, when a young woman gave birth to a child. Just another day, just another birth. And yet Christians believe that that day, that that birth, in some way changed everything. The birth-day of Jesus, one moment in history, one day among many, is celebrated as the moment history changed, the moment God became human.
The Canadian singer Bruce Cockburn puts it beautifully in his song Cry of a tiny babe: Like a stone on the surface of a still river, Driving the ripples on forever, Redemption rips through the surface of time in the cry of a tiny babe.
So, as I said, happy Christmas.