Oh God, why do I even bother? Why bother with Christmas? It's crass, crowded, and crude. We're forced to be with people we don't like, relationships are strained, and the divorce rate spikes as we're relieved of the distracting pressures of work.
This week I walked the streets of London in the chill of December. Mandela is dead, and millions are preparing their annual "celebration". At 9pm the crowds are so thick I'm forced off the sidewalk. Everyone seems well dressed and happy. All shapes and sizes, fat heads on thin bodies, thin heads on fat bodies.
In the chill 5 degrees the men's dress code is black coat. For woman it's mostly dark colours with calf-high boots, or else black leggings and shorts! Everyone seems to smile, with branded bags bulging with presents. There is seemingly no shortage of buying power. Faces carry perfect complexions (sadly disappointing on closer inspection).
I squeezed into the carol service where throngs came to rediscover the magic ... most with a Julian Barnes-like sentiment "I don't believe in God, but I miss him." The service was highly professional with a full orchestra and choir that rivaled a west end theater production - no second rate stuff for God. The sermon inspired us with well timed humour, moving stories, and selections of Biblical truths that left people thinking for the moment that "yes, Christmas is good". Sadly the persistent nasal snorting of the man seated on my right, the incessant glow from the mobile phone of the texting girl on my left, and the feverish fanning of the face from the man with flu in front, diluted the magic. My long meaningful glares only elicited only an unresponsive glance. But the real persistent nag was the unrelenting question echoing in my mind: "What's should be my response" to these people, to the carol service, and I suppose to God.
Elsewhere in town the alternative carol service, a comedy show of "Nine lessons and Carols For Godless People" seemed to have it all covered. Lets laugh and enjoy it all. Oh God, why bother with you?
In the evening gloom I headed on foot to Hyde park, overtaking two Ferraris and a Lamborghini along the way. I hoped they could find some way to appreciate the power of their engines, or perhaps the envious looks they earned was enough. At the Winter Wonderland fair many thousands queued in the cold for their few minutes on a fake frozen pond, or to climb into machines that hurled them through contortions to the sound of thumping music and shrieks from others behaving in ways to be expected.
At times I stood still and closed my eyes, and let my ears do the seeing. A note of disquiet echoed through the sounds of overheard conversations. "I haven't got a job yet" ... "no, he's left me" ... "they owe me and I don't think I'll get paid" ... "trial separation" ... "I guess I'll pay it off in January" ... "have to deal with the silly relatives".
Oh God, why do we bother? We're happy enough I suppose. Sure, there's some problems, but it'll work out, won't it? Isn't the real reason for the season simply that I get to have some fun and put aside my troubles for a little while. A bit of retail therapy, some help from the alcohol, massaged by the festive emotions of mass marketing. After all, its been a tough year, don't I deserve at least that?
There was once a girl named Tamar who married a father's eldest son. But her husband was evil, and then he died. So she slept with his brother, but he scorned her, and he too died. Still childless, she disguised herself as a prostitute, and when her father-in-law came looking for some fun, he paid her and she slept with him. Now pregnant, she gave birth, and from this man and this woman came the generations that lead to Jesus.
Forgive us for frittering away
time in exceptionally silly ways,
for forgetting the people
furthest away, and those
who like us the least,
on following through
with our stated intentions,
for every distraction
that leads our minds astray
Restore and redeem as
we give it over to you,
so that perfect love is
matched by perfect justice,
and those in poverty forgive
That our celebration of this season
will be matched only by our giving,
"We are going to ...", we say,
"yet we only have half the
volunteers we need,"
May our consciences hurt, as
"Joyful, Joyful we ... ",
we sing ...
So God, why do I bother? Because you bothered.