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Getting to the Heart of Christmas

Addressing the geographical and cultural wrapping

by Brian Radcliffe

Suitable for Whole School (Sec)


To consider the simple Christian message of the Christmas story.

Preparation and materials

  • You will need a leader and two readers.


Leader: As we look around us at Christmas cards, Christmas adverts and Christmas programmes, there are many common images.

Reader 1: I’ve seen lots of robins pecking in the snow for crumbs.

Reader 2: There are candles and firelight flickering against a dark night sky full of stars.

Reader 1: Everyone’s dressed in warm coats, scarves and hats.

Reader 2: That’s because they’re singing carols under a snow-covered tree.

Reader 1: Some lucky children are sledging to see Father Christmas at the North Pole . . .

Reader 2: . . . while on the table sits a full roast turkey dinner followed by Christmas pud.

Leader: But it’s not actually like that everywhere. In some parts of the world, people will be spending Christmas Day in shorts and T-shirts. The sun will be beating down on them. Christmas dinner will be a barbecue on the beach, followed by a swim in the pool or the ocean. You see, the Christmas weve made for ourselves carries a lot of baggage thats related to where we live and the traditions weve created. Not least, weve built in image after image that relates to a location in the northern hemisphere. If we look at the actual location of the Christmas story, the picture is somewhere in between the extremes weve noted. Bethlehem, lying in the mountains, would have lower temperatures than many other places in the local area, but it would be cool rather than cold. A sweater would be enough.

Time for reflection

Leader: So, what is Christmas really all about? For Christians, it starts with the biblical characters. Theres a vulnerable teenage girl called Mary. There is Joseph, a slightly older man, trying to do his best in a situation about which hes more than a little confused. Hes forced to take his heavily pregnant wife on a journey because of Roman legal requirements and, when they reach their destination, she gives birth to the baby. These are very ordinary people: not complex, not influential. They are easy to identify with. But its the baby thats the key to the whole situation.

For Jewish people - for thats what Mary and Joseph were - God was a holy, powerful and remote person who, on occasions, became involved in the lives of ordinary men and women. This baby, Jesus, changed all that. Christians believe that Jesus was human in that he was born to a young woman. However, they also believe that Jesus was God’s son, whom God had sent to earth. Jesus was God and humanity in one person. He bridged the gap. This concept is difficult to understand, but it is central to the Christian faith.

Christmas is a special time. We all love the traditions that have been developed in our own homes and countries. However, the true heart of Christmas lies with the tiny baby born in Bethlehem, whose life would change the world.

Dear God,
Thank you for the wonder of Christmas.
Thank you for all the traditions we enjoy.
In the busyness of Christmastime, remind us of the true meaning of Christmas.


Any appropriate Christmas song.

Publication date: December 2017   (Vol.19 No.12)    Published by SPCK, London, UK.
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