Christmas and New Year are often a time of recollection, reflection, and a bit of nostalgia. Family stories re-told round the dinner table, or by the fire. Re-lived in the telling. Stories with a meaning for those involved. Family myths subtly changing, but with a core that connects.
We receive Christmas cards, open them, glance at the picture and see who they are from. Each card will generate some reaction – a thought, a memory, a smile perhaps. Even a mild panic if we have forgotten to send them one.
This year I have looked more closely at the scenes depicted on the cards we have received. Like the family stories, they too are mythical, often presenting an idealised, even nostalgic, Christmas. A warmly lit church, choir boys outside in procession through the snow, carrying lit candles. A vintage post van bringing greetings in the snow.
Even the Nativity scenes are idealised. One might even say sanitised. The Holy Family posed in a brightly lit stable with the animals strategically placed. The Shepherds,though rough and ready outsiders in their society, beautifully dressed. Not to mention the Magi in their finery, in spite of their arduous travels.
We live by stories and important stories stay around and become myths. Stories with powerful messages about ourselves and our relationships. And at Christmas, those myths contain central messages about our relationship to God.