It is one of those exquisite winter mornings that have come early this year: glistening snow, clear blue sky, white laden trees motionless in the early stillness. Golden sunlight streams over the forest covered heights which give our suburb its name – “Brickeberg” – though its rays have yet to strike our still shadowed home. All is calm, all is bright, as the Christmas carol says, the beauty is almost painful.
It is Sunday again, the third in Advent, and soon we will wander down the hill to church, to be reminded once again of the real reason for the season – the child called Jesus who arrived inconspicuously in our world some two thousand years ago to live a life and die a death which just can’t seem to be forgotten, events which have so ingrained themselves in our consciousness, that now few people in the culture of which I am a part seem to question whether this time called Christmas is even relevant. We unquestioningly rush madly around desperately trying to create something special, trying to make something of these few days.
We somehow need these days when everything stops and we refocus, when we search for the meaning and purpose in our lives, things so often forgotten in our busy-ness. The trouble is that for many of us we are not really sure what the focus should be, what the meaning and purpose is: church seems old hat, giving gifts seems to be just to give in to an already materialistically obsessed society, meeting family seems so often to end in tears as we recognise the yawning gulf between what we think life and relationships should be and what they really are.
I was reflecting the other day on the oddness of our society. We live in a land where everyone has everything, more or less. Sweden must be one of the best provided for communities in the world. Even the dispossessed survive in relative comfort (relative to their families in Africa, the Middle East or Asia). But now at Christmas we rush to town to buy stuff for people who need nothing, resorting often to the junk shops, the shops filled with stuff that no-one needs but which are somehow fun, or nice. Meanwhile, the millions of people in the world who have nothing get none of our hard earned cash. Imagine if Sweden, or Australia, or any of our rich Western countries, gave our entire Christmas budget to the needy of the world, instead of to the glittering shops that line our streets. Our stress would be reduced, we would have more time to spend with one another, and the world would be a better place. But instead we do what we do, and so often it ends in disappointment…
But today is far from disappointing. Now the sun has hit our neighbour’s roof transforming the virgin white into a sparkling blanket. Golden light streams through our windows. Creation is clothed in its finest, the earth laden with jewels, a diamond studded day.