Last night I re-watched A Beautiful Mind, one of the films in my “Top 5 Films” list. John Nash is a student at Yale who reforms the dynamics of economic theory proposed by Adam Smith. His underlying principle is that one making a choice must not make a decision for his own benefit but rather make a decision for his own benefit and the benefit of the community. Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross initially benefited/benefits the community but not himself. He suffers terribly for the sake of the community. Am I to suffer for the sake of my community or am I to make decisions in line with the Kingdom of God that benefit myself with the hope that a kingdom-approach will ultimately benefit the community (presuming that the community needs realigned with the Kingdom of God)?
Anyone who has read this blog or anyone with whom I have had any form of meaningful dialogue in the month of December knows of my disenchantment with the popular American “celebration of Christmas.” My purpose is not to detract from the Messiah celebration event but rather consider the most appropriate and right way to celebrate the coming of God to earth in the form of man. What would Jesus have us do to celebrate his life on earth?
I have tried to maintain the Brueggemannian concept of criticizing the current consciousness but only while energizing toward an alternative consciousness. I would contend that is what Jesus did. He came as a better way; the right way. He challenged the popular religious practice by submerging the sacred (himself) with the secular. He bridged the chasm between the Kingdom of God and the kingdom of earth. He was an alternative consciousness. What then, is an alternative way to celebrate the life of Jesus that adheres to the kingdom of God rather than the earthly empire of consumption?
It is problematic to boycott spending and consumption just for the sake of making a statement or raising awareness. What if, however, we pursue the use of our monetary resource in a different manner? To advance beyond the conceptual I am offering some ideas through which Sarah and I have celebrated mostly this year with some experimentation last year:
+ For Kyla’s babysitters we purchased beaded necklaces and bracelets through Bead for Life. For every $1.00 spent, $.93 goes directly to a female in Uganda, Africa who hand crafts and paints the items made from recycled paper. Their income then becomes food, medicine, and school fees to aid in the eradication of poverty.
+ For Sarah, Kyla and I gave to Samirtan’s Purse in order to feed hungry babies in other countries. The total giving to this program feeds 22 babies for one week. We also gave to help rescue a child from slavery as a child soldier, menial laboror, and other grossly exploitive bondage.
+ We were actively engaged in the food pantry donation projects in Knox and Morrow counties.
+ From our parents we asked that they use the amount of money that they would normally spend on us and seek to give to others and/or donate money to our adoption savings account, enabling us to continue our process for international adoption.
A friend challenged me in a previous post to “prove it” – to prove a type of giving that does not benefit ourselves. I don’t know that I necessarily proved anything. My intention is not to say “look what I did” or “I proved it” but rather to offer a way to celebrate the birth of Jesus that glorifies Him and His Kingdom. I trust that Jesus will be the one to prove his love to be real for those effected by our giving. We have not arrived at that fullness of doing what could be done for others or being who we should be for others. There may be better and more effective ways to engange the brokenness of life with people as Jesus did. We look forward to hearing your giving experiences, ideas, and perspectives.
Though my personal readings and reflections are, indeed, very personal and private, I find it timely and necessary to share a portion from yesterday’s invocation from “A Guide to Prayer for Ministers and Other Servants.” Please excuse the King James-like Old English. It is a beautiful prayer.
“Bestow upon us, we beseech thee, that most excellent Christmas gift of charity to all, that so the likeness of thy Son may be formed in us.”
My personal translation (or, rather, paraphrase) reads:
“We beg you. Give us the greatest gift of all. Give us hearts and minds for giving to all so that we may reflect the very gift given to us: salvation, freedom, liberation, life.”
(1) thing that I like about Christmas: People.
There could be some valuable sociological studies conducted by means of mall observation. When I had the unfortunate displeasure of going to Easton Town Center on December 21, my introverted self found itself tucked away in some corners simply observing people. I am not sure that I can even articulate my thoughts so I will include a few examples and allow you to formulate your own perspective:
A) Two sisters walking side-by-side wearing matching wreath-printed turtle neck shirts under fluffy “Christmas” sweaters.
B) A two-hour line to have a child’s picture taken sitting on the lap of an unknown man dressed in a large red suit with fluffy cotton lining and beard.
C) Anxious and self-indulged expression of teenage girls trying to pick out just the right outfit. In a matter of 20 minutes, 15 other girls painstakingly picked out the same exact outfit.
(1) thing that I don’t like about Christmas: People.
There are (3) groups of people that drive me crazy during the holiday season:
a) who buy there children everything that they want.
b) who scream at their children in stores.
c) with strollers.
2) Drivers: Who determines who is able to obtain a Driver’s License anway?
3) Teenagers in Starbucks: See upcoming post entitled, “Who invented the Frappucino?”
DISCLAIMER: It is important to note that I fall into category 1C. Sarah and I use a stroller (see pictured) when in public and walking any extended distances. I actually ran into a girl’s bag when she stepped out in front of me. Fortunately, the bag was from Hollister so I didn’t mind hitting it. Secondly, it was her fault for not yeilding to oncoming traffic. Who determines who is able to obtain a Baby Stroller Driver’s License anyway? Rather, who determines who is able to obtain a Teenage Girl Walking in Mall License anyway?
This post is dedicated to LEE YOWELL.
In my response to a friend’s post entitled “Why I like Black Friday” another friend commented, “you hate christmas.” I imagined his tone of voice and the comments that may have followed in conversation such as, “I mean… you really hate Christmas” or “I mean… you really hate Christmas. What did Christmas even do to you? Did it punch you in the face? Would it not get off your shed when you asked it to? I mean… you hate Christmas.”
I laughed hysterically when I read his comment. I later asked myself, “Do I hate Christmas?” Hate is such a hateful word.
There are some elements of Christmas that I do loathe. Some obvious examples are:
- The paired colors of bright red and kelly green.
- Inflatable snow globes that function as yard ornamentation.
- Strands of lights that burn out on the tacky, artificial evergreen tree that sits in the corner of the room.
- The commercial exploitation of Jesus.
My disenchantment with the popular American celebration of Christmas does not exist because of what it did to me but rather what it does to others. We waste our time, money, and resources to fulfill our desires for high-definition home entertainment, designer clothing, and other personally selected gods and goddesses. Is Jesus really honored by our consumption that pays homage to stuff, devalues simplicity, and oppresses others who do not have the wealth and resources that the rich (as an American I am a part of this class) hoard for themselves.
There are some elements of Christmas that I value:
- Spending more time with family.
- Intense reflection on God coming to earth as a man.
- Reconnecting with friends.
- Giving to those who have need for food and child care.
So to answer the question, “Do you hate Christmas?” I must respond, “No… but my heart breaks at the consumerism that is the supposed celebration of Jesus’ life on earth.” I imagine if I were a man in Africa dying of AIDS whose wife could not feed herself or our child and I was asked, “Do you hate Christmas?” then I would respond, “It depends on how you celebrate it.”
“What Would Jesus Really Do…?: Holiday Edition” will be airing on CNN Friday evening, December 21 at 8:00 p.m. EST.
I have saved most of my thoughts about consumerism for one week before Christmas. I think that I become too angry and I needed some time for mellowing before attacking an issue that resonates deeply with me. I will begin with one simple question:
Is Jesus honored by our mass purchases?
Can arrogance be equated with speech or an action that is one’s own claim of his/her authority? In other words, is it “the pot calling the kettle black” for someone to tell another that he/she is arrogant?
Can an arrogant person admit his/her own arrogance? If so, then isn’t his/her own admittance arrogant because he/she views himself/herself as authoritative enough to make that decision?