Lower your expectations
increase your goodwill.

Christmas is the primary festival in our cultural calendar. Celebrating the return of the sun is as old as humanity. More than five thousand years ago our ancestors built Newgrange to mark this time of the year. The fact that this year Irish people will spend about € 4 billion leading up to Christmas tells us that Christmas is impossible to ignore.
          For weeks now advertisers have been presenting us with an image of Christmas celebrations. The image is of a happy family, sharing food, exchanging gifts, gathering around a warm fire, singing carols. The images are of universal peace and happiness; however 99.9% of these images are just imaginative creations; the marketers selling us a dream of Christmas. Like all dreams they do not exist in reality.
          In one sense Christmas Day is just another day yet it does have some exceptional powers. It has the power to magnify our emotions. If we are happy, Christmas will make us happier. If we are sad, Christmas will emphasise our sadness. If we are depressed, Christmas will deepen our sense of isolation. If we are bereaved, Christmas will shine a light on the absence in our lives. If we feel uneasy or that our life is out of kilter; Christmas will let us believe that we are the only person who is feeling like this.
          Christmas cannot change a life. So to happily navigate a path through Christmas a first step is to lower our expectations of Christmas. Christmas will be what we make it; so keep our expectations reasonable and make a commitment to live the spirit of peace and goodwill. Be kind to the people you meet; without expecting anything in return.
          Christmas has endured because its traditions speak to us. Their messages are not in TV adverts they are found in quiet remembrance of the Christmas stories. Pre-Christians celebrated the return of the sun.
          Our comfortable lifestyle and our familiarity with how the planets work make us forget the importance of light. For the last six months day by day the darkness has increased; due to the tilt angle of the earth. Now due to the same tilt for the next six months and the miracle of gravity the earth will once more expose more of its surface to the Sun. Each day with longer light hours, warmth will increase bringing new life back to the earth.
          This is a reminder to us of the nature of existence. Life will always be a mixture of darkness and light but all things change. When we experience darkness we can be certain that one day the darkness will once again lighten. At this time of the year the increasing light is noticeable almost immediately. Light is always more powerful than darkness. As we know with certainty that spring will bloom again we can believe that we too will experience the hope of life renewed.
          Christians allocated mid-winter as a date to celebrate the birth of Jesus. We know that Jesus was not born on the 25th December and Unitarians do get hung up on details about the birth of Jesus that are totally unimportant. In the United Kingdom most Unitarian Churches do not hold a Christmas Service.
          The nativity story has endured because it speaks to us; it speaks to us without the layers of theology that hide the true message of Jesus. Over time mainstream Churches have made Jesus into a God and gave him the task of “saving humanity”. All that is needed is for followers to “believe” in the death and resurrection of Jesus.
          Jesus never spoke about “the sin of Adam” he never said that “all we needed to do was to believe certain articles of faith”. Unitarianism grew out of the belief that Jesus was not uniquely God incarnate in human flesh. Unitarians believe that the example of the life of Jesus is more important than theology about Jesus. Living out the example of Jesus is more difficult than believing articles of faith.
          We know that Jesus was born into a very ordinary life. Despite the very ordinary beginnings Jesus brought fresh thinking to how we should live. Jesus taught the dignity of every person irrespective of wealth of power or nationality. The slave is equal in importance to a king.
          The bible is full of accounts of miracles where Jesus healed the blind, the deaf and cured the lame. I don’t believe that ancient Judea was a land exceptionally full of disabled people. I believe that these miracles are directly addressed to us. We are all to some extent blind, deaf and lame. We are blind and deaf to the inequality in our world and all of us hobble through imperfect lives.
          The great thing about celebrating Christmas is that this is the one time of the year when most of us try to live out the message of Jesus. This is the time of the year when we give to charity. At Christmas we put ourselves in the shoes of our brothers and sisters. At Christmas it bothers us to see that there are people homeless or that there are people who do not have enough to eat. It bothers us and we try to change the world.
          In this church we have four young girls taking part in our Coming of Age programme. They held a bake sale in aid of Cooking for Freedom. ( Cooking for Freedom is a group of refugees who have come together to cook their traditional meals, the way they would like. Being in direct provision their meals are provided, chicken and chips every day becomes boring. Dublin Unitarian Church has committed to help provide support for these people.) They raised €700 plus. This is living the example of Jesus it is the spirit of Christmas. This example is multiplied over and over again at Christmas.
          So don’t expect Christmas Day to change your life. Alexa is being programmed to send messages of peace at about 6.30; lower your expectations and up your commitment to making your world a better place especially on this day. Then let’s try to extend the spirit of Christmas into the days ahead.

Rev.Bridget Spain
Minister Dublin Unitarian Church                            Dublin 25th December 2019