Monday, 20 December 2010

So silly season is soon to pass.

I'm not particularly fond of Christmas, apart from the opportunity to share the gospel.

As we know, worshiping Jesus is life, not an annual event. You can praise what you don't non-Christians can praise Jesus, but that doesn't make them worshipers of Him. May their praise lead them to become true worshipers of Him.

Anyway ....I thought I'd copy a piece which my brother, Rowan, wrote for his church Christmas letter. He has always had a way with words...

You may know that the date of December 25 is ‘artificial’ and was a takeover from the 3rd Century Roman feast of the Rebirth of the Sun—celebrated somewhere after the Winter Solstice (in the northern hemisphere). Right away, that tells us that the first few centuries (of the Common Era) had no interest in knowing when Jesus was born or even celebrating it. That came with calendars and the demarcating of precise time.

Richard Rohr – a wonderful Christian thinker – suspects that it may have been St Francis of Assisi who inadvertently began our journey towards sentimentalizing Christmas. St Francis, who loved all creatures, re-created the drama of the stable with live animals and music – and it seems from that initial event, the ball began to roll and has gathered speed; and along with it a dreadful commercialization of this holy event.

The irony is St Francis lived and taught simplicity – he would be appalled today.

But the deeper tragedy is that Christmas is the celebration of God emptying Himself for us; and we have allowed our celebration of this ‘emptying’ to be characterized by over consumption.

It is interesting that Ramadan and Yom Kippur are celebrated with fasting. I wonder if it would not be good for Christians to fast, instead of feast, over Christmas. (And imagine if we took the money we might have spent on our feast, and ensured some hungry people could eat instead. Would that not feel like something Jesus would do?)

I don’t want to be a Christmas ‘kill-joy’. But we deceive ourselves if we believe self indulgence is the way to celebrate our Saviour who emptied Himself of all but love, and bled for Adam’s helpless race. He deserves better. He is worthy of more.

I am sure I will surrender to the pressure of buying gifts again this year. I will probably ‘spoil myself’ a little. I will probably have a few magnificent meals. But I will try to remind myself that none of those things particularly celebrate the Saviour – they are our human festivities, which in some measure we ‘need’ periodically. It is a time to be of good cheer; to affirm family and friends; to ‘breathe’ at the end of the year.

But if I am to celebrate Jesus, that will be marked by sacrifice, surrender, emptying, fasting, generosity to the poor and vulnerable, and a deeper commitment to worship.

Jackson Browne – a remarkable musician and poet – has a song called ‘The Rebel Jesus’. Browne is not a Christian, but he can see the incongruence between the teachings and life of Jesus, and the way we celebrate Christmas.

All the streets are filled with laughter and light

And the music of the season

And the merchants' windows are all bright

With the faces of the children

And the families hurrying to their homes

While the sky darkens and freezes

Will be gathering around the hearths and tables

Giving thanks for God's graces

And the birth of the rebel Jesus

Well they call him by 'the Prince of Peace'

And they call him by 'the Savior'

And they pray to him upon the seas

And in every bold endeavor

And they fill his churches with their pride and gold

As their faith in him increases

But they've turned the nature that I worship in

From a temple to a robber's den

In the words of the rebel Jesus

Well we guard our world with locks and guns

And we guard our fine possessions

And once a year when Christmas comes

We give to our relations

And perhaps we give a little to the poor

If the generosity should seize us

But if any one of us should interfere

In the business of why there are poor

They get the same as the rebel Jesus

Now pardon me if I have seemed

To take the tone of judgement

For I've no wish to come between

This day and your enjoyment

In a life of hardship and of earthly toil

There's a need for anything that frees us

So I bid you pleasure

And I bid you cheer

From a heathen and a pagan

On the side of the rebel Jesus

But if a ‘heathen and a pagan’ can understand these things, I can only pray that more of those who follow Jesus will do so too.

As I write I feel a little like Browne in the closing verse: I’ve no wish to come between this day and your enjoyment. And so, with all sincerity I wish you a wonderful ‘festive season’ (“I bid you cheer”)by Rowan Rogers