We're fast approaching the only day of the year when there won't be any negative newspaper headlines. Sadly however that's just because it's the only day of the year when newspapers aren't printed. The fact that this is billed as a time of peace and good will can't mask the fact that we live in a broken world.
Cases of domestic violence rise over Christmas. The first working day in January is known as ‘Divorce Day’. December 25th isn't exempt from brutal murders, such as when a man gunned down his family as they opened presents in the 'Christmas Capital of Texas' in 2011. Even Good King Wenceslas, who spread Christianity among the Czechs, was murdered by his half-brother.
Although our Christmas may be tragedy-free, it's never quite as good as we expect. Children are soon bored with presents they've anxiously waited months for. Parents have the tension of family being round and the stress of trying to get the dinner ready. Soon, it's all over. We find ourselves saying: 'is that it?' And we start looking forward to whatever the next big event is.
But if Christmas leaves you feeling empty this year, it's a reminder that you were made with desires this world can't fulfil. C. S. Lewis once said: 'If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world’.
At this time of year we get glimpses of something beyond this broken world. Time with friends and loved ones, good food, a break from routine. Maybe you could almost believe that there is something magical about it. But ultimately, it disappoints.
Lewis wrote that before he became a Christian: 'an unattainable joy had hovered just beyond the grasp of my consciousness.' We look for satisfaction in this world. But the things we think will bring us joy 'are not the thing itself; they are only the scent of a flower we have not found, the echo of a tune we have not heard, news from a country we have never yet visited'.
Every fleeting pleasure that we try and hold onto this Christmas is merely a signpost to another world. Don't put so much hope in the signpost that you miss what it's pointing to.
Published in Stranraer & Wigtownshire Free Press, 15th December 2016