These bleak mid-winter nights are a good time for wild dreaming. Alone in the dark, the world can only be imagined. Anything seems possible, even faith. Perhaps that is why I agreed to go to church the other day. A Japanese friend, a former salaryman from Tokyo, invited me a to a Carol service at a Brighton Baptist church. He was curious about an English Christmas. And so was I. It was my first service in perhaps 20 years.
The service included a John Lewis advert, starring a family of animated penguins projected on a large screen, multi-lingual sermons and speeches by 2,000 year-old angels. I think my friend had asked me along to help him understand. Fortunately, my friend confined his post-service questioning to asking about the filling in our Co-op mince pies.
Christmas is too cringe-worthy to explain now. It is much better translated. The Japanese translation works brilliantly. I heard on the radio this morning that in Tokyo at Christmas, couples were queueing for hours outside KFC and love hotels. Eros and the Colonel join Jesus around the manger, what a lovely image.
Perhaps Christmas has never been easy to explain. The festival itself might originate not from celebrating the birth of Jesus, but from a pagan ritual related to the midwinter solstice. Iron Age tribes used to gather around stone circles in midwinter to eat Co-op mince pies. It hasn’t changed much.