I love strolling around Tivoli, taking visiting friends to the laser light show, and trying to avoid the scary rides. I have only been on one Â– that tall one that circles around with your legs dangling. And I only went on that by mistake. I was queuing with my daughter Sarah for what I thought was a much gentler ride, and once I got to the start gate it was too late to turn back. I keep well clear of the queues now and admire those with greater courage than I.
I was excited to see the Russian-themed centrepiece. From a distance, the large domed cathedral with bells swinging reminded me of a visit to St Petersburg. Going inside I wasnÂ’t sure what to expect. On my travels to Russian cathedrals, I had experienced clouds of sweet incense, deep tones from bearded men, and little old ladies bowing before icons of the Madonna and Child. At the Tivoli unorthodox cathedral one is greeted by a vertical rugby scrum of smiling black bears, with the one at the top waving a large red star. It felt like we were all on the wrong ride. The very reason for Christmas Â– a baby born 2,000 years ago in Bethlehem under a bright golden star Â– has been surgically removed from the story.
We are left with a plastic replica of the real thing with its heart removed: the shell of a Christian building, with the star of Bethlehem replaced by the star of Russia. Apart from the sterilisation of anything to do with the real Christmas, I also wonder what our visitors from Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and other former Soviet republics would make of this Danish glorification of the red star state?
In Bethlehem this year, Christian families celebrating Christmas will be divided by the huge wall built by the Israelis and face economic strangulation. In Egypt, Christian families celebrating Christmas are mourning those killed by bomb attacks on Coptic churches. For many Christians this Christmas, life is uncertain and celebrating the birth of Christ can be dangerous. In Moscow, my colleague chaplain of our Anglican Church has to wear a bullet-proof vest.
But none of this is new. Jesus was born into a dangerous world, into poverty, to an unmarried teenage mother who had to flee for her life Â– on a donkey. This was a pretty odd way for the Son of God to arrive! Just over 2,000 years later there are two billion Christians around the world, and growing. As we celebrate his birthday this week, I just wonder … what would Jesus make of all the nisser, tinsel, shopping and consumption if he walked through Tivoli today? Maybe: Â“Hey guys, did I really start all this? Which ride are you on?Â”
However you celebrate, have a very happy Christmas and New Year!