‘Familiarity breeds contempt’ is one of the warnings I remember from childhood. It was something about not getting too friendly with staff at my boarding school and thereby losing respect for them.
But it strikes me now that the same principle can apply to the way we view the Christmas story – as a society we have become so familiar with it that we now treat it with contempt. An event that was truly a turning point in history, has been relegated to just another fiction and excuse for gift-giving. Christmas greetings celebrating the birth of God’s Son have been replaced with Happy Holidays and Winter Wishes, and Nativity Plays portray an event so sanitised that we are happy to agree that Christmas is ‘just for the kids’.
The irony of course is that the heart of the Christmas story is the belief that a loving God made himself known to human beings, by making himself into something so familiar that everyone could recognise him – a human being!
His invitation was that we might come like the shepherds and wise men and bow down and worship Him. But the risk was that we might despise the simplicity of His love and, like the innkeeper, turn Him away.