In December 2017 the British newspaper The Independent reported on a survey of two thousand adults that revealed:-
One in five Brits do not know that Jesus was born on Christmas Day
One in twenty thought Jesus was born over Easter
One in ten were unable to name Bethlehem as the ‘town’ in which Jesus was born
One in ten were not aware that Jesus was born in a stable
One in twenty could not name Mary and Joseph as Jesus’ parents
One in twenty thought the gifts given by the Three Wise Men included a donkey
One in twenty thought the Wise Men named a star after Jesus
This is the context in which I want to urge you, my dear reader, to adopt two simple ways of sharing the Christmas story this year
Give some Real Advent Calendars
Unlike commercial Advent calendars, which tend to feature Snow White or Mickey Mouse or some other secular hero, the Real Advent Calendar helps families to engage with the Christmas story. First created in 2013, the Real Advent Calendar is an imaginative attempt to put ‘Christ’ back into ‘Christmas’. Behind each of the twenty-five windows is part of the Christmas story and a festive shaped Fairtrade milk chocolate. The calendar comes with a Christmas story-activity book, with a page for every day of Advent, together with some fun Advent challenges along the way. For more information, see www.meaningfulchocolate.co.uk
It is a great way for parents and grandparents to share the Christmas story. We will therefore be giving a calendar to each of our seven grandchildren. However, it is a way of sharing the Christmas story with other families too. That is why I have ordered a case of eighteen such calendars. Our challenge will then be to find another eleven children who could do with being reminded that ‘Jesus is the reason for the season’. Yes, it costs a little money – but I think our £70 will be well used if it proves a means of sharing the Good News of Jesus with eighteen children.
Send some real Christmas cards
No other country in the world has such a tradition as the UK in sending and receiving cards. The British buy more cards per person than any other nation – thirty-three each a year! Many of these cards are Christmas cards – last year an estimated 900 million Christmas cards were sold by stores in boxes and packs worth around £230 million, and this did not include cards ordered on online.
Unfortunately in most Christmas cards Jesus has been ‘air-brushed’ out of the picture. In a Bible Society survey, out of almost six thousand types of Christmas cards in supermarkets, cards shops and convenience stores, only thirty-four featured nativity scenes. Even when cards with other vaguely religious images (for instance choirs or church pews) the total amounted to only two percent.
Now I confess that at Christmas we have always sent a ‘Christmas letter’ to our friends – it’s the most convenient way of connecting with people we have known over the years, especially those who live overseas. However, we always send Christmas cards to our family – we also send Christmas cards to local friends (e.g. I send cards to members of my Rotary club) and when we give a Christmas ‘box’ to those who deliver the newspaper or the milk, we give them a card at the same time.
In spite of the lack of ‘real’ Christmas cards in the shops, it is not difficult to obtain cards which depict the Christmas story. I tend to buy cards from BMS World Mission or from our local diocesan book-shop. Or if you want to be ‘posh’, you can splash out and order cards featuring the nativity from the Royal Academy or the National Gallery. What is true, is that to find a meaningful card, some early organisation is required.
At a time when thirty-six percent of five-seven year olds do not know whose birthday is celebrated at Christmas, it is vital that we find ways and means of sharing the good news of Jesus.
I’ve been on board with REAL Christmas cards for as long as I can remember but I like the idea of a Real advent calendar. Looks like they don’t have them in Oz but I’ll keep looking.
A few years ago I gave each family in our church with young children a book of five minute devotions. Maybe I’ll give them Real advent calendars this year!!!