INSIDE THE CHRISTMAS STORY
Refl ections for Advent
ANTHONY AND MELANIE BASH
LON DON NEW DELHI NEW YORK SY DN EY
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First published in Great Britain 2012
Anthony and Melanie Bash
The moral right of the authors has been asserted No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner
whatsoever without written permission from the Publisher except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles or reviews. Every reasonable effort has been made to trace copyright holders of material reproduced in this book, but if any have been inadvertently
overlooked the Publishers would be glad to hear from them.
Bloomsbury Publishing Plc 50 Bedford Square London WC1B 3DP
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Foreword by David Hope, Archbishop of York (19952005) ix
Before we begin . . . 1
December 1 Christmas . . . and Jesus 5
December 2 Christmas . . . and the rest of life 11
December 3 Christmas . . . and science 17
December 4 Christmas . . . and the Gospels of
Matthew and Luke 25
December 5 Christmas . . . and a family tree 32
December 6 Christmas . . . and Jesus parents 39
December 7 Christmas . . . and prophecy 47
December 8 Christmas . . . and Zechariah 54
December 9 Christmas . . . and Elizabeth 62
December 10 Christmas . . . and forgiveness 69
December 11 Christmas . . . and a girl
called Mary 76
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December 12 Christmas . . . and children 83
December 13 Christmas . . . and hardship 91
December 14 Christmas . . . and Augustus 97
December 15 Christmas . . . and humility 103
December 16 Christmas . . . and shepherds 111
December 17 Christmas . . . and Anna 118
December 18 Christmas . . . and Simeon 124
December 19 Christmas . . . and the Magi 131
December 20 Christmas . . . and presents 138
December 21 Christmas . . . and refugees 146
December 22 Christmas . . . and loss 152
December 23 Christmas . . . and food 158
December 24 Christmas . . . and Jesus the man 164
December 25 Christmas 171
December 26 Th ey think its all over . . . 174
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It was the late Cardinal Hume who once suggested that it was
about time that we put Christ back in to Christmas. And that is
precisely the aim of Melanie and Anthony Bash in this excellent
collection of thoughts and reflections for the season of Advent,
itself much in danger of being almost wholly marginalized even
by the churches themselves.
From the first day of December until the day after
Christmas, the reader is presented with a clear and accessible
thought for the day which is deeply rooted in Scripture, and
in particular the birth narratives of Matthew and Luke. And
whereas it may have been more convenient either to evade or
avoid altogether some of the more challenging passages, Melanie
and Anthony tackle, for example, the opening genealogy of the
Gospel of Matthew and the belief in the virginal birth of Jesus
head-on, ensuring a refreshingly lively and vigorous examina-
tion of the text, as well as an appropriately relevant interpreta-
tion for the day.
As might be expected too in Advent with the seasonal
emphasis on the last things the authors of Inside the
Christmas Story , reflecting on and thinking through their own
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personal vocations and professional hands-on experiences,
make the collection truly come to life. They include as well
some elements that will disturb and challenge the reader with
questions and messages which are in no way either smug, self-
satisfied or comfortable. Furthermore, their contributions nei-
ther sermonize nor moralize.
In all, here are 26 pieces about Advent which recall the reader
to its true purpose, namely an invitation not simply to be car-
ried along with the ways of the world, as if in Advent Christmas
had already arrived, but rather to take the trouble to stop and
look and listen expectantly and excitedly to the word of the
Lord each of the days before Christmas. The result is that when
the Day finally arrives, it can be celebrated with even greater joy
and thanksgiving the day on which the Word became flesh
and dwelt among us and a day which brings good tidings of
great joy for all people.
+David, Lord Hope of Thornes
Archbishop of York (19952005)
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Before we begin . . .
Before we begin, it might help if we make a few observations.
The observations may seem obvious to you, but their impli-
cations are not always straightforward.
First, Christmas is a Christian festival to celebrate the birth
of Jesus Christ.
However, when Christmas is set in the public arena,
Christmas is often a secular celebration, reshaped to include all
people and to offend none.
Advertisers and marketing executives have made sure that
Christmas, that mid-winter festival of spending money, is for
everyone, whoever they are, whether they have faith or no faith
and whether they belong in a Christian tradition or not.
Secondly, Advent, 1 a period of a little less than a month before
Christmas, is not a time principally for making mince pies and
1 Advent is from a Latin word and means coming. The coming that is referred to is the coming of Christ, born as a human being. The first day of Advent is always a Sunday and is the first of the four Sundays immediately before Christmas. Advent is also regarded as a time of preparation for the second coming of Jesus Christ as judge at the end of time. In former times, fasting was practised during Advent. The last day of Advent is Christmas Eve.
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INSIDE THE CHRISTMAS STORY2
icing Christmas cakes, for buying presents, putting up decora-
tions or writing cards (though, of course, many of us rightly do
Rather, Advent is a season of personal and corporate prepa-
ration. It is a time for Christians to get ready to celebrate Gods
wonderful gift of Jesus at the first Christmas. It is a time to
reflect on how to celebrate wisely and appropriately.
Thirdly, the materialistic and secular mindset of the
twenty-first century increasingly affects how Christians cel-
ebrate Christmas. Commercial and social pressures tend to
shape what Christians do, rather more than Scripture and the
traditions of the Church.
Lastly, each year there seem to be fewer and fewer connec-
tions between the Christian religious base of what Christmas
is about and what (and who) people at large are celebrating.
In a nutshell, Jesus has got more and more forgotten about at
If these observations strike a chord with you, this book is for
So please read on if you want to reflect on the first Christmas
without its sentimental and commercial trappings.
Read on if you want to move from the sanitized, mythical
Jesus of popular culture (like Father Christmas or the tooth
fairy) to worship the deeply disconcerting God whose presence
and activities run through the Christmas story.
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BEFORE WE BEGIN . . . 3
Read on if you want to rediscover that the Christmas story
takes us to the heart of Christian discipleship.
In short, we hope we will get inside the Christmas story , not
only to discover its wonder and joys but also to acknowledge its
turmoil and heartaches. We hope too that the Christmas story
will get inside us . The result, most likely, is that our faith will
deepen and our lives will change.
This book consists of a series of reflections, m