You don’t need to spend very long looking at or listening to the news to get a sense that we seem to be living in extraordinary times. I won’t list the stories of the moment as they may well have changed completely by the time you read this. You may find the news a very difficult watch and choose to avoid it if you can. If only the news could be a little more ordinary or perhaps extraordinary, but in a good way.
We live in a culture that loves everything to be at least a little bit special. Advertisers never tire of telling me how their products will make me or my life so much more special. And at Christmas everything has to be even more special. Life will be magical and extraordinary beyond words with an M&S, John Lewis or [insert your brand here!] Christmas. The adverts are often truly amazing.
It’s not just the adverts that get the Christmas treatment – are you looking forward to the Strictly Come Dancing Christmas Special? No? Me neither. But you know your favourite TV programme has made it if it gets a Christmas Special!
Christmas can be a special time for us, but its specialness often comes in the form of the ordinary and the familiar: the old Christmas decorations that come out every year, the annual game of Monopoly, where Grandpa always has to be the top hat, but can’t remember the rules, and the comforting knowledge that Auntie Maureen will snore her way through the King’s Speech even though she’s only ‘resting her eyes’.
The first Christmas too found its specialness in the ordinary. (OK, the star, the angels and the wise men were quite extraordinary). But at its heart is a young mum and dad, a struggle to find accommodation, straw and swaddling bands and a new born baby. Christianity is a faith that invites us to encounter the divine through the ordinary: the water of baptism, the bread and wine of Holy Communion and a baby named Jesus. God is also there to be found in the face of loved ones and strangers, and in our everyday encounters with the abundance of God’s creation.
The special, the extraordinary, even the divine is not something we need to add like the angel on the top of the tree, but something that we can encounter when we simply scratch beneath the surface of the ordinary.
Have a profoundly ordinary Christmas!