Christmas trees have thrived, making their foliage greener and glossier. Also, more fragrant. That means for those who like a real shrub in the corner of your room at Christmas you will not be disappointed.
However, those hoping for romance under the mistletoe may have to go for the plastic option as holly and mistletoe are in short supply. Ho hum!
Recently I have been humming Good King Wenceslas and thinking what an odd carol it is. In fact, I discovered that it is not technically a Christmas carol at all.
The famous ditty is about a king (well, duke actually) who lived some 1000 years ago in Bohemia (now modern day Prague) who, on Boxing Day, saw a poor peasant from his castle and decides to go and take food and wood to them.
Although based on a real character, this story is a myth. That is not to say Wenceslas was not a “good king”. Thanks to his grandmother Ludmilla, Wenceslas was brought up a Christian and was gifted with a strong faith, as well as a strong sense of public duty. This would later have a positive impact on his dukedom. Unfortunately, his mother who did not share her son’s convictions had her mother murdered.
He was widely called ‘good’ because he set up an education system and a successful law and order system for his beloved people. So, being generous, we might say that some parts of the carol story about him being a kind King are true.
Sometimes people will say to me: “You’re a good man”. I politely smile, but the truth is I don’t feel I deserve the accolade. Besides, who really decides if someone is good or not? My atheist friends quite rightly get uptight when a church claims to be better at being ‘good’ than others.
Goodness is the product of ethics. And if we understand ethics to be a set of principles for behaviour, good morality is surely just learning to live by them. That means we like ‘good people’ to be elected to government. ‘Good people’ to win the lottery. ‘Good people’ to win music awards.
Just like Wenceslas, those with Christian faith and a social conscience continue to shape our modern system of politics, law, education and health service, but I doubt any of them would call themselves ‘good’.
However, there is still the big, unanswered, philosophical question: who is good enough to say they are ‘good’?
Let me stick my neck out and say, in my view, there is only one– Jesus Christ. The Bible says that he is without sin and moral failure. That’s quite a claim. First century historian Josephus wrote without bias: "At this time there was a wise man who was called Jesus. And his conduct was good, and he was known to be virtuous”.
I like to think people come to our church not to be good, but because they want the Christmas message of hope that talks about God’s son coming into the world to transform their lives.
Meanwhile, if you would to know how to have a good Christmas yourself, why not plan to come along to one of our special services or another one local to you? Some of us may even have a “Ludmilla” that we can go along with.