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Re-imagining Christmas, reshaping community

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In London, six motorcycles roared into a large shopping mall, three of the masked riders rushed into a jewelry store and with axes and baseball bats, they broke the jewelry display cases. They bagged three million dollars worth of goods and they all roared away on their mounts. At its core, this is a modern Christmas story in crude metaphor. Isn’t the season to be jolly become a well dressed celebration of commercial robbery?{{more}} I can imagine other Christmas shoppers having their guns and masks ready to ensure that they too have a merry Christmas a bright, prosperous New Year. Our dispossessed and errant persons are adopting the commercial logic of the season and implementing it in their own image. They too re-imagine Christmas, like so many before them.

Let us look at how the Christ movement used to celebrate its founder Jesus of Galilee in its early years. The major festival was a virtual documentation of his dying for their liberation – not his birth. (That was the “Communion” or “Mass” which Paul hints at in I Corinthians 11.24-26). Another celebration in the early Christ movement had to do with him being raised from the dead/death. A third way they celebrated the Christ was in “preaching him and teaching his words.” There was no Christmas festival among the early followers of Jesus Christ until the movement was 300 to 400 years old. So what we have now is a festival which many generations and cultures and classes have helped to shape. One writer summarises it as “(having) a mix of pre-Christian, Christian and secular themes and origins.” In other words, so many others have stamped their images on what we embrace as Christmas that this question emerges in some Christian circles: How can we as Christians adopt this festival which was never a part of the New Testament believers’ lives and has so many non – Christian influences and even anti-Christian impulses, as in the annual climax of commercial manipulations?

A RESCUE MISSION

The actual stories of the borning of Jesus show us how to face the Christian dilemma of a falsified Christian festival. One description of the coming of Jesus is “… the Word became flesh and lived among us.” The accounts of how, where and when Jesus was born are all very fleshly accounts about sex and shame, scrunting hillsmen, mercenary intellectuals, and court/political intrigue. All of that mess became the medium and the constituency of the first Christmas. What we see in the birth of the working class infant in Bethlehem is a model of how Christians intervene in and engage with spreading good news where it matters – in situations of the flesh! The first Christmas was a rescue mission, a telling moment in the history of cosmic liberation, and it began with a helpless infant. Is that what our Christian community should aim at as we set out to re-imagine Christmas?

It is clear, is it not, that Christmas at present is a broad global community festival. It does not belong to the Christian movement, and that is a good position for it. Christmas represents the “flesh” in which we must live and yet express and reach for a glory that argues for love, grace, justice and truth in the community. We cannot leave Christmas as it is for the ruling classes and the dispossessed to configure in their images. What the early Christians omitted to celebrate, we can and we must take responsibility to undertake. After all, the kingdom that we share and seek is for childlike faith and integrity. Let us re-imagine Christmas in that spirit. Round table invites everyone to join this rescue venture. We will begin from the accounts in the gospels which tell of the birth of Jesus of Nazareth.

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