Christmas isn't Christmas anymore?
I’m suspecting I’m not the only Christian minister who is in receipt of emails; facebook pokes; youtube videos and (if I had an account like my Anglican friend across the street) twitter notes filled with umbrage about the downfall of Christmas.
Not as a way of life; not as a recognition of the Divine in the ordinary; not as a call to love; nope, strictly as a terminology by which one recognizes and names the winter solstice celebration that’s been ongoing in the Northern Hemisphere since at least the end of the last ice-age.
It seems to me that this year’s outpouring in support of ‘Christ’s Mass’ as the proper terminology by which to designate a (forgive the allusion) hoped for orgy of spending and increased indebtedness in support of a consumptive economic system (and yes, I mean that in the 1800s sense) is more about claiming superiority than naming and living a call to love.
I do not, however, mean that everyone who forwards an email; views a video; or supports a tweet feels superior to those that do not resonate with Christmas as an emblem of their own faith. Rather, I believe most are struggling to find ways to reclaim the meaning of Jesus’ birth story in a culture that has used it to symbolize the very traits of brokenness that Jesus spent his ministry pointing out.
Jesus may have lived 2000 years ago, in a culture far different from our own, and in a landscape that’s more Alberta badlands than BC mountains, but some things were remarkably similar. Some things are very hard to change.
People living in ancient Israel were just as subject to an economic system that sequestered wealth in the hands of a few, as people are today. The people drawn to his manger, to celebrate his birth, were the poorest of the poor. Not that love does not exist and call for all of us, but Christians have long affirmed and recognized a particular option for the least among us. In the birth story of Jesus, shepherds were called by angels to come meet the incarnation of God’s love for them upon the earth.
A helpless love that needed their care to survive. A wee, small baby (born to a wee young woman), lain in a manger on a cold winter’s night.
I would so enjoy receiving emails in quantity and volume that proclaimed the return of love to the earth. That took the birth story of Jesus as inspiration by which we are all called out on a cold winters night to become angels to shepherds, to find helpless love waiting in mangers, on street corners, in shelters, hospital beds, prisons, and the house next door. In which we became living messengers of love, giving each day our daily service to the love that came calling in Bethlehem just a little while ago, and again this Christmas, and again every day after that.
Wouldn’t it be something, if Christmas became Christmas once again?
Keith Simmonds is a diaconal minister in the Communities in Faith Pastoral Charge serving Beaver Valley, Rossland, Salmo and Trail.