Every Christmas the political party leaders release Christmas cards, as do most, if not all MPs.
They are sent to constituents and those special few who make the list. They usually cause something of a furore in the press.
This year featured some truly memorable offerings. Full marks should go to Ed Miliband for using a picture of himself in a leather jacket, astride a motorbike with, wait for it, a bacon sandwich in his hand. I appreciate anyone who is able to laugh at themselves and so credit where credit is due.
Our Prime Minister, Theresa May, went for three designs by children in her constituency. Inside, May wished her constituents and card recipients “Best wishes for a merry Christmas and Happy New Year”.
Liberal Democrat leader Vince Cable went down the same route, choosing a design drawn by a schoolgirl in his constituency. It shows a festively decorated Christmas tree:
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn meanwhile played it boringly safe:
Coincidently, the Labour party’s official Christmas card is hilarious; it daringly pokes fun at Theresa May after the ‘f’ fell off the slogan at the back wall behind her when she gave her memorable (for the wrong reasons) conference speech back in October:
Many of our politicians' cards were nice, some were strange and hardly any of them would be considered distinctly Christian.
Part of me just doesn't care. I don’t think a Christmas card from your local MP needs to be distinctly Christian. For one thing, if your MP is not a Christian, why should they confine themselves to a card with the Nativity on it? Call me a scrooge, but most Nativity scenes are based on inaccuracies rather than the biblical text.
But I do think the cards selected by our leaders are further proof of how distinctly un-Christian we now are as a country. Christmas has lost any sense of its true meaning. As a holiday, it has become completely commercialised. More than anything else, Christmas for the majority is about presents. It’s a chance not to be at work. A good excuse to spend some cash to get stuff designed and sold to ‘enhance’ our everyday lives.
A Christ-less Christmas is no Christmas at all
The tragedy of all this is simple: A Christ-less Christmas is no Christmas at all. Sure, on December 25th you might get the latest iPad, or iPhone or tablet. You’ll see some of your family, hopefully avoid any bust-ups and watch all the old classics. All the while, the true meaning of Christmas and the message of hope it reveals to us will pass you by.
What is this true meaning? It is the astonishing truth that God himself, in the person of the Son of God came into his own, broken world and became like one of us. There is nothing to compare this to. It is the most staggering truth. Jesus Christ left the Father’s side in order to save sinners. He came to die. His whole extraordinary life led to that point where, on a cross outside the city walls he gave up his life as a sacrifice for sin.
Above all else, Christmas is about this gift from God himself of his own Son. Far from abandoning us to our sin and misery God sent Jesus to be a Saviour. To miss this, is to miss out on forgiveness, peace with God and the joy and hope that flow from that reality.
The cards sent by our MPs are a sad reminder that our Christian heritage has been eroded over past decades. Our country is increasingly secular and humanistic. The true joy of Christmas has been all but lost. More than that, something of our history as a Christian nation has also been lost.
And yet, in the midst of all the tinsel and turkey and trapping of Christmas, the incredible news of God’s love for a broken world in Christ is still true. Across the nation there are gatherings of God’s people who meet to remember the birth of Jesus.
Even in our very secular society today, there is a lingering desire among people to go to church to sing carols. We must pray that God works in mighty power this Christmas so that many come to know a Christ-centred Christmas with all the lasting joy and peace that it brings.
James Mildred is the co-host of the Holy Political Podcast