Isn’t it amazing? Christmas brings out the most facile stuff in the media. According to the newspapers today there is to be a rationalist/atheist celebration of non-Christmas by a load of British comedians and the venerable Richard Dawkins. Well, I’d quite like to go to it. It is bound to be funny, there will be lots of really creative thinking and there will be the sight of Dawkins getting all worked up attacking the wrong target again. If Christmas is about God coming into the world and eventually getting a reputation for partying with all the ‘wrong’ people, then I’m happy to keep the tradition going and have a laugh with the atheists at the Apollo.

So, if that isn’t what I meant by ‘facile’, what is? It’s another brief article in the Independent by Tom Sutcliffe. He has one of these clever-clever pokes at God from a keyboard which commits him to nothing and contributes nothing to the wider world of which he can poke his fun. He takes out of context the words of a South African bishop about the fate of Zimbabwe and the need for an end to Mugabe before going on to question where God has been for the last few years as the situation in Zimbabwe has got worse. It is the usual stuff about ‘if God is God then why hasn’t he done anything so far?. It only takes half a brain to realise that God is not a magic fairy who interferes in human existence at any inconvenient moment, but has always been, is and always will be a little more subtle than this fantasy.

I am in almost daily contact with Zimbabwe. I was due to go there last week and had to cancel at the last minute for security and health reasons. I would have been meeting people who are giving their lives every day to bring an end to oppression and alleviate the suffering of Zimbabwe’s people. There are also thousands of Christians here in England alone (to say nothing of other countries in the world) who are giving and working to support basic life and society in Zimbabwe – keeping teachers in jobs and schools open, trying to provide health care and tend the dying – while some people just show how cleverly they can write. This is done not out of some vague altruism, but as a direct response to the God who in Jesus Christ opted into the world and demands that people who dare to bear his name do the same – whatever the personal cost.

I guess this is where the truth about Christmas gets real. No fantasy and no sentimentality. Just people getting stuck in and opening themselves up to the laughter of the world. Well, laugh on – there’s more to come. (And if anyone fancies going to the atheist Christmas comedy bash, let me know and I’ll check my diary…)