My annual Christmas purdah from social media and emails has given rise to some interesting thoughts this year. On Christmas Eve, I puzzled my family by coming out with a statement some of the younger ones failed to understand.
People don’t feel like Christmas anymore because our lives have become too secularised.
Once I’d explained what I meant by secularised, they all wandered off in different directions, leaving me to explain to myself what I was actually trying to say. So I, too, wandered off, to find a decent definition of secular, one that doesn’t treat organised religion as true faith, one that sets aside how faiths have been misused, and focuses on what it really means. I found it, too.
Worldly rather than spiritual.
Yes, that’s it. We have all become too worldly, too focused on the material, rather than spiritual, rather than looking at what we can do for others without putting our hands in our pockets, looking instead for material gain in all the things we do.
But it’s all about money; everything. Especially in these times.
Times are indeed hard, and England, as a country, has, for centuries, been led by hypocrites and liars, as have, actually, all countries in this world. Their failings and malevolence are, in fact, just an extrapolation of our own selfish instincts, where we put ourselves before others and where, for a few days every year, we put on a face, and pay lip service to a mawkish representation of Christmas.
But Father Christmas doesn’t exist.
That’s what people say to me. And I tell them that if they believe in any good in the world, then Father Christmas does exist, that if they believe in anything magical, then Father Christmas does exist. And I believe in Father Christmas.
Father Christmas is a symbol of the secular and represents materialism.
Only if you want him to. Giving isn’t about you giving something tangible, it’s about how you give whatever you give. A real gift is a gift of the soul, something spiritual, something more real than an expensive toy, a ring of pretence wrapped in shiny paper and ribbons and bows.
I took Holy Communion on Christmas Day morning for the first time in a while, and said my prayer for peace in the world while bombs were going off in the Middle East.
You’re just being a Bible Basher now.
I don’t really believe in going to church. It smacks too much of organised betrayal of religion, but I like to formalise what I believe from time to time. I don’t believe in forcing my faith on anyone. I don’t believe that Christianity is the best religion; I don’t believe any religion is the best religion.
Then what’s the point?
I believe that all faiths are valid, that we all need spirituality to be able to move forwards in life, to give us strength to create something that will remain when we have died, something that’s made someone else’s life better.
Yeah, well, Christmas still doesn’t feel like it should.
Take time away from the relentless chasing for the grand gesture (that’s cheap, into the bargain). Move away from the crowds, move away from the rich telling you to buy stuff to make them even richer, move away from wanting to receive to wanting to give.
I can compose no philosophical arguments or theories; my mind is not precise enough. I have not studied theology or philosophy or ethics. But I have studied reality and have to live it every day, however little I might like to.
And I believe that the best place of worship is the one we carry within ourselves, that flame of spirit in our hearts that makes us what we are. Just spend a little time listening to it, spend a little time on your own, in a bright corner of your existence, and spread some warmth to those you love and those you would like to love. Then go back to Christmas and see what it feels like.