Where do you go to do your Christmas shopping? If you’re fed up with the crowds, maybe like me you turn to the internet, but if you want to head to bricks and mortar shops, then you have a variety of choices to turn to. If you want to stay local you head for Brookfield Farm shopping centre. If you fancy a change of scenery and want something more, maybe you catch the train and join the tourists in Oxford Street. If you really fancy something special, the Christmas markets of Austria and Germany are famed for their offerings; giant decorated Christmas trees, Father Christmases, seasonal edible treats and nativity scenes. If while you’re shopping, you fancy helping yourself to one of their offerings, however, be careful, as according to the website christmas.org.uk Big Brother is watching you!
This may come as no surprise. CCTV is something we’ve become used to in England, it is taken for granted that if we are in a public place, the chance is that we’re being watched. But this surveillance operation in the town of Weitra, close to the Czech border, is somewhat different and a little controversial. Those doing the watching are not doing it through strategically placed cameras, but undercover agents, detectives dressed up as the Baby Jesus! Asked to comment on the plethora of baby Jesi on high alert the website cites a city council spokesperson as commenting: ‘They are in among the crowds all day long and they are perfect for keeping an eye out for petty crooks.’
Of course, next Saturday (11th) Churches Together will be encouraging people to do the reverse and to ‘Get in the Picture’, dressing up as figures from the nativity story for a photo in Hoddesdon – look out for them in the afternoon and evening.
Do these activities sound like strange things to associate with the birth of Jesus? Are these somewhat at odds with it? Maybe. But there is also something quite fitting in both. The whole point of Christmas is that God came down from on high and mixed among the people he created and loved. Maybe not to catch them out, as in the Austrian market, but to be with them, associate with them. He quite literally became one of them and as the Message wonderfully puts it ‘moved into the neighbourhood’ (John 1:14). In Christ, God was no longer up there, but down here.
As we celebrate Christmas, this simple and yet profound truth is and should be at the heart of our celebrations. Jesus, God with us. It should also challenge us to consider how much we insist on people coming to us or becoming like us so that they can find faith, rather than our following Chris’s example and moving into their neighbourhood and becoming ‘one of them’.
Church Newsletter Article for Sunday 5th December