White wine in the sun?
It’s that time of year again, when many of my fellow antipodeans share this video:
And I can understand why. Tim Minchin, in clever (it’s almost as if he sets a page of The God Delusion to the score of Les Mis) and witty lyrics sum up how a lot of people feel about Christmas. I even agree with his words against commercialisation. The music is sentimental, and quite moving. The main point? Christmas doesn’t need to be about the coming of Jesus, for us in Australia, it’s about spending time with family and relaxing in the warm whether, we a nice drink in hand. Sounds great…. if you’re lucky enough to be a happy middle-class family. I don’t doubt his sincerity, or his emotion when he sings about his daughter, nor are the sentiments themselves necessarily wrong – but is that all there is?
You see, if this is all Christmas is about, then for a great many people, it is not at all a time of joy. If Christmas is simply about family spending time together, what about those who have none? If it’s about eating nice food and drinking nice wine, what about those who have none?
I’m afraid that to me, all the major sevenths in the sweet chord progression can’t cover the fact that this view of Christmas, of life, is, to borrow a phrase from Dawkins, a skyhook – an idea without foundation. It is, as my friend Nathan has put it, simply spending left-over Christian credit. He even says it – I don’t like the Christian message, but I still really like Christmas. But what is Christmas without that Christian message of hope? For a great many, for those who don’t have the luxury of happy families and nice food, it’s lonely. But that’s not what the message of Christmas is, indeed, it’s the opposite – it’s about God coming to live amongst us, not in a happy middle-class western family, but to a poor, outcast middle-eastern family. He didn’t come sipping Chardonnay in the sub-tropical sun, but to a dirty cattle-stall in the Palestinian out-back, to drink the bitter cup for us. And he came to those of us in need, those who hunger, those who thirst, and those who are lonely, indeed, to all of us, so that we could be reconciled to God.
Minchin, no doubt, rejects that message as mere superstition or perhaps something worse, but the alternative he offers just doesn’t cut it. No amount of classy piano playing can mask the inherent nihilism of the worldview his beloved Dawkins espouses, a world in which some people are just lucky and others aren’t, in which the lucky get to drink wine with their family, and for the rest, well… happy Christmas (the bits I like anyway) and tough luck. In Dawkins’ universe, there is no inherent justice, but in Jesus we have one who came to:
“…proclaim good news to the poor.
… to proclaim liberty to the captives
and recovering of sight to the blind,
to set at liberty those who are oppressed,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
(Luke 4:18-19 ESV)
As Minchin says about the Christmas hymns, I like his chords, but the lyrics are a bit…. dodgy. His view of Christmas is just too small, and too sentimental for me. Is Christmas just another meaningless ‘nice’ time, or is it really good news of great joy for all people, the time when we celebrate Immanuel, God with us?