- What’s round and bad tempered? A vicious circle.
- Why didn’t the skeleton go to the party? He had no body to go with.
- What does the word ‘minimum’ mean? A very small mother.
- Why was Santa’s little helper feeling depressed? He had low elf-esteem.
- What do you call a penguin in the Sarah Desert? Lost.
- What do you call a dinosaur coming out of an optician’s? Do-you-think-he-saurus?
- How do snowmen get around? They ride an icicle.
- What is an ig? An igloo without a loo.
- What is Santa’s favourite pizza? Deep pan, crisp and even.
What do you call the person who adopts you into his family, brings you up like his own son and lets you inherit his carpenter’s business? You might think the answer would be ‘Dad’, but not if you were Jesus! Luke tells us that Jesus was very clear from his earliest youth that God was his father, and not Joseph. The Bible often calls Jesus Son of David, Joseph’s most famous ancestor, but only twice is Jesus called ‘son of Joseph’, and then only by people who don’t believe his claims to be a special representative of God. It seems he couldn’t be both Son of Joseph and Son of God, he could only be one or the other.
Or how about this riddle? What do you call people who are waiting for a powerful king but who get a defenceless baby instead? The Bible admits that some of them were disappointed, and others were incredulous, though Simeon and Anna were honourable exceptions. But it’s no wonder that Jesus struggled to find acceptance. According to the story the Son of the Most High was born among strangers, tiny, weak and poor. Now, of course, even royal babies start life tiny and weak, but they’re also protected by armies, waited on by servants and surrounded by their family and doting courtiers. The story of the birth of Jesus reminds us of one of the greatest paradoxes of the Christian faith - that the greatest power on earth finds its expression not in brute force but in gentleness.
Or, what if I asked you to name the gift that God gave to us at Christmas? As we have seen, the Gospels are clear that God gave us his Son, but the term Son of God is really just a roundabout way of saying that God shared part of himself with us. So maybe the obvious answer isn’t the only one. Maybe God gave us himself at Christmas.
Ad this leads me to my final Christmas cracker question from the Bible. If everything in the universe belongs to God, where did God find a welcome when he gave himself to us and came to live on earth? The answer is that there was no home where the maker of heaven and earth found a welcome when he came to live among us. Instead, he had to spend his first night where someone grudgingly found a little spare capacity for him, in a manger borrowed from the animals. At the first Christmas the people who witnessed Jesus’ birth had the chance to welcome him properly, but they flunked it. It was only later - after he was born - that people began to recognise who he was and make him truly welcome.
But the story of Christmas isn’t just a seres of Christmas cracker riddles, is it? It’s a series of challenges to each one of us. Do we call ourselves children of God? Is this where our first allegiance lies? Do we try to rely on the power of gentleness or do we secretly think that other kinds of power are really more effective? Do we understand that God has made himself vulnerable and weak in Jesus, and are we prepared to let him in so that his gentle revolution can transform our lives? Simeon and Anna answered ‘Yes’ to those questions. What about you and I?