There are now only nine sleeps till Christmas, and you know what that means, right? Yup, Kentucky Friend Chicken! At least in Japan it does.
Now as a Brit this is one aspect of Japanese culture that I don’t think I’m ever going to get used to. I mean, come on . . . KFC? Seriously? That’s not what Christmas is about. Christmas is about a proper roast dinner: roast turkey, roast potatoes, pigs-in-blankets, stuffing, and of course literal pints of gravy. Followed up with some Christmas pudding with custard, and then mince pies.
But not in Japan. KFC have pulled off a move of evil marketing genius and somehow convinced the entire Japanese nation that a Family Bucket with a side of strawberry cream cake is the traditional food to eat at Christmas. I am impressed and appalled in equal measure.
So this year I’m seeking to address the issue of Christmas food in Japan.
Kinda . . .
Because here’s the thing: the thing I want most this Christmas is my dad’s Christmas dinner. See that was his meal. He did the whole thing, pretty much single-handed. And it was always insanely good. I guess maybe those years in the army helped, because the Christmas roast operation was a sight to behold and a delight for the belly.
But I won’t get to eat my dad’s Christmas roast this year. Or any year for that matter.
I was talking to a friend about this and she suggested that I use this as an opportunity to go deeper into the real meaning of Christmas. So that’s what I’m doing this year. I’m thinking through the Christmas stuff I’m missing this year, thinking through to the meaning beneath.
Starting with food. Partly because the KFC thing has weirded me out again, and partly because I’ve realized that food is one part of Christmas that I have never really thought about.
I mean, just what is the meaning of Christmas food? What does eating until you can’t move have to do with the birth of Jesus Christ? Does it?
I think it does. I just think that I’ve tended to not notice the meaning of Christmas food because Christmas has always been a really fun time for me. A fun, festive holiday season to finish off the year. In the UK that means chicken covered in gravy, in Japan it’s the colonel’s secret recipe. And if I’m honest, I’m actually a fan of both (and in Japan you can get your chicken wings with earl grey tea, which is a win in my book). So if I really tried, I probably could get through Christmas day on a high of chicken and cake.
But what about after that? What about New Year’s Day… Without my Dad. Easter…without my Dad. My Dad’s birthday… Without. My. Dad. It doesn’t matter how much fun I have this Christmas––and everything ‘fun’ will doubtless be tinged with sorrow––I still have to face 2015… Without my Dad.
No, I need something more substantial than turkey. I need something more satisfying than mince pies. I need a saviour. I need God. And the overwhelming good news of Christmas––the meaning of Christmas (and Christmas food)––is that the birth of Jesus Christ was God giving Himself for us to feed our souls on.
This then is the message I want to focus on this Christmas, when the Christmas music is stopped and KFC takes away the Colonel’s Christmas hat:
Christmas doesn’t mean we get to feed on fried chicken and strawberry cream cake. And it doesn’t mean we get to feed on roast turkey and Christmas pudding. Christmas means we get to feast on Christ.
“Whoever feeds on me will never go hungry.”
That’s Jesus: the guy who turned a snack into a feast, and water into wine. Miracles pointing to the deeper truth that He is the bread of life. If we go to Him, we never go hungry.
No. Matter. What.
Because unlike KFC in Japan, Jesus ‘the bread of life’ Christ is indeed for life, not just for Christmas.