A few days before Christmas, my owner popped into our localsupermarket to purchase a final few items which would be needed over the festive period. And in front of the spirits section, he was unexpectedly approached by a nice young lady who needed some advice about whisky. “You see”, she explained, “I run a mother and toddler group and we got someone to dress up to be Father Christmas so I thought I’d better get him a bottle of whisky.” Then she added: “I’m not sure we’ll ask him to do it next year though. He had ‘Love’ and ‘Hate’ tattooed on his knuckles!” Well, my owner (who looks nothing like Father Christmas) saw a glimmer of opportunity here and replied: “Well, you could either buy him a pair of gloves or else employ me next time around!” To which the lady gave a polite chuckle, selected a bottle and disappeared off to the checkout.
Poor old Santa gets played by all kinds of different humans, and not all are very suitable. But not only that. He’s also been hijacked by the world of human commerce. Coca Cola were the original culprits, but many other companies have since used Santa as a marketing ploy. And now, in America, he’s probably Coca Cola’s top sales rep. We parrots think that’s a bit of a shame. Because Santa, or St. Nicklaus as he’s called in Europe, is the Patron Saint of Children, so he’s meant to be synonymous with acts of love and kindness rather than capitalism. And in many richer countries, the demand for him to deliver bigger and better presents every year means that the poor old man gets no rest at all. No wonder some Santas have become very mixed up with their “Love” and their “Hate” in conflict with one another!
Now I would imagine that many thousands of Santa costumes have been put away at the back of cupboards until they’re required again next Christmas. Santa’s work is finished for another year. So is that it? Is the Christmas party over? Or has the human world forgotten about someone else? Because while Santa offers us a one or two day “present spectacular” every year, what Jesus offers is rather better. Because Christmas Day marks the beginning of Jesus’ work here on Earth rather than the end. Unlike all of the world’s Santa Clauses, Jesus doesn’t disappear anywhere after Christmas Day and we are reminded of that fact in the verses of a beautiful poem by the American Howard Thurman…
“When the song of the angels is stilled,
When the star in the sky is gone,
When the kings and the princes are home,
When the shepherds are back with their flock,
The work of Christmas begins:
To find the lost,
To heal the broken,
To feed the hungry,
To release the prisoner,
To rebuild the nations,
To bring peace among brothers,
To make music in the heart.
(Howard Thurman: 1899-1981: American author, theologian and civil rights activist: From his poem entitled “The Work of Christmas”).
Now, of course, the physical embodiment of Jesus is no longer here on Earth. But His spiritual energy is all around us, waiting for an opportunity to work through us. Just as Santa supposedly has his elves to help him, so Jesus wants to use each and every one of us for His work here on Earth. And we don’t have to put on a special costume to do it. We simply need to open up our hearts to let Him flow through us. Humans often fail to realise that every drop of love and compassion that we hold inside is a little bit of the essence of Jesus within us. So as we begin to move into another New Year, complete with all of Life’s problems, issues and turmoil, we all have the opportunity to change things for the better, even if it’s on a very small scale. Jesus is the gift that keeps on giving if we allow Him to. Even after 2000 years. And so today, like some feathery angel, I proclaim good news and say to you all: “Happy New Year!” “Happy New Year” and “Thank you Jesus!”
“And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”(Colossians 3:17)