Bishop Irja Askola


It leaves tracks, this year as well.

Christmas is launched with a conflict of emotions and situations: the nostalgia of traditions, opposition to these customs, and everyday realities sweeping along their own roller-coaster. The question of “do I really have to” reverberates there where we least expect it. Poverty and abundance, pleasant pursuits and hectic restlessness are all to be sensed in the crush in the street, on the commuter train, in the queue at the cash register. Perhaps more truly in those places where no one dares to reveal their own pre-Christmas thoughts.

At Christmas there seems to be either too much or too little—even when referring to people. One person is struggling in a jungle of choices and preparations. Another feels down and out—this is how Christmas is probably going to go this year.

What kind of emotional mark does God leave on our Christmas? For God, Christmas is not a demand, a performance, some sort of play or a competition between traditions. Basically, Christmas is a message about liberation, about how God came “over to our side”. That is why at Christmas “everything around here” may be present in the moment. So there is space for fears, for disappointments, for things left halfway done. But there is also room for joy, amazement, and everything nice. Christmas may be multifaceted, different, a variety. There is no such thing as “one genuine way to celebrate Christmas.” Yet within the multiplicity of realities, there remains a small cleft for the presence of the Holy: Blessings may arrive as Christmas guests but not require any preparations on our part.

Could I possibly leave such a Christmas trail this year as to surprise even myself? Fewer demands, oversized plans and accusations? Less envy and whining? A reduced carbon footprint?

What would happen if the emotional imprint of my Christmas would be here: The Saviour is born! Might this afford me licence to breathe a sigh of relief, to break free of shackles, obligations, stifling customs? The Saviour—is!

Sustained by this, I trace towards a Christmas where there is a fragrance of blessing.