Keeping Our Faith in the Market Place at Christmas
The Christmas season is often a time when the Christian community has to recognise just to what extent British society has become secularised. The streets and shops are thronged with men and women staunch in their devotion to buying gifts and food, but unconcerned with celebrating or even acknowledging the Christian basis for the festival. Christmas, it seems, proclaims not the manifestation of Christ, but his disappearance. Even the Christmas stamps mark the presence of Santa and his reindeer, but the absence of the child Jesus and his Mother.
Yet far from fading into the background, religion in general continues to have a very public face. The last few months have in fact seen fierce debate over the role faith and the symbols of faith should have in civil society. There have been disputes over the wearing of Muslim veils and Christian crosses in public. There has been a battle between those who contend that faith schools tend by their nature to be socially divisive and those who argue that it is the faith in faith schools that teaches our children to work for social harmony and justice. All these things have caused considerable public debate and we only have to look at the papers to see how divided and even antagonistic opinion gets. For many religion remains something that is seen as profoundly threatening to human happiness in a modern society.
Faith should be part of civil life and its public celebration is the basis for a properly flourishing society. Even controversy gives us new opportunities to witness to the saving truths of the Gospel and to argue for keeping faith in the market place. Yet controversy by itself is never enough. Celebration and the manifestation of the joy that is the central dynamic of the Christian experience Christmas. We should make the point to send cards that do represent the events we remember at this time. We should make sure that we do make the public liturgical celebration of the birth of Christ the heart of the way we do Christmas. We should make a crib a central feature in the way we decorate our homes, the homes to which we invite our neighbours during this season. In these ways in which we celebrate Christmas we keep faith present in the market place, visible to others we live among.