“Christmas means that, through Jesus, God shows unconditionally that he loves us"
It is Christmas Eve, and the Archbishops of Canterbury and York are busy spreading the joy and peace of Christmas through the Church of England's #Christmasmeans social media campaign.
Congregations and clergy in all of the church's 12,000 parishes are being encouraged today and tomorrow to get out their mobile devices and complete the sentence: "Christmas means..."
Last year the CofE’s nifty and breviloquent Christmas hashtag #christmasstartswithchrist was seen by more than 9 million people in 24 hours. If it had been a little more succinct it may have been easier to spread. If the gospel of the risen Christ was foolishness to the Greeks (1Cor 1:23), a Twitter hashtag that takes up 25 units of precious homily space is utterly flapdoodle.
If Blogger is the new pulpit, Instagram is the stained glass window, Twitter is the Collect and Spotify the choir. The virtual church is growing and thriving: His Grace's cyber-cathedral reaches more parishioners every day than any of those made of stone: communion is virtual, but the leadership is sound and the fellowship is real.
In his #Christmasmeans message, His (present) Grace Archbishop Justin Welby says: “Christmas means that, through Jesus, God shows unconditionally that he loves us. I pray that he gives you a very blessed Christmas.”
For His (former) Grace, "Christmas means different things to different people, and Jesus is a rapidly-diminishing part of the festival. The Establishment is becoming increasingly secular under the guise of neutrality, and the public sphere is becoming intolerant of those who walk in spirit and in truth. But our churches are never more full than they at Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve, so don't cuss the burgeoning congregation for being once-a-year 'cultural Christians' or for their lack of regular communion because, quite frankly, there's not a lot worth getting out of bed for on a Sunday morning that can't be read in the pages of The Guardian or gleaned from Songs of Praise, except, of course, the 'Jesus' bit.
For many millions of Christians, Christmas still means the birth of Christ. And the life and death of Christ is still the way of salvation. And that salvation is hoped for and longed for - especially at the end. If postmodern believers in a post-Christian culture can find a bit of Jesus in tinsel and fairy lights, then we must appreciate their worship of the Son of God; encourage them to see beyond the kings and shepherds; help them to appreciate God's relationship to humanity; and nurture them beyond the idols of gold, silver and television.
Alternatively, you could play the Prodigal's older brother and self-righteously carp on about their spiritual ignorance and their woeful lack of worthiness to approach the altar.
Christmas happens in the heart.
Christmas means an encounter with wonder.
Christmas means a glimpse of joy and a taste of peace.
Christmas means close family, true friends, and the essential love of the Christ-child.
What does Christmas mean to you?