This weekend people in Northern Climes will be gathering to celebrate the return of the sun. The Winter Solstice marks the end of lengthening dark nights and the beginning of the end of nature’s sleep. In global terms – it’s midnight. A new day has begun.
Did I mention it’s also the week of the Christ mass? No? Most Jesus people, I think, know that the birth of Jesus falls on this date because the Roman Emperor Constantine in the fourth century chose to replace Solstice celebrations with “Birth of Christ” celebrations when he made Christianity the state religion of Rome.
Historical commentators report that this adoption of the Christ faith by the Roman empire was the greatest hijacking in all history. A pacifist, mystical-simplicity movement was put into the service of the greatest war and wealth machine the world had ever seen. The Roman Empire set the standard for all armies since that have marched to the moral superiority of an official Christianized drum beat.
Today’s commentators complain that “Christ” has been taken out of Christmas. I say “it’s about time”. Let’s take Christ right out of this mass consumption festival. Let’s quit spoiling his good name by associating it with the hype and the stress and the once-a-year charity fest. Following Jesus to the mall is like following Jesus to war. It don’t make sense. I can hear the baby Jesus cryin the Christmas blues.
The Christmas story is all about searching. Searching for one small key to unlock the mystery of Salvation for a people living in the shadows of empire. Joe and Mary on a forced quest to the ancestral birthplace – unable to find decent lodgings – pushed to the fringes. Shepherds seeking out a Saviour in an unlikely hidden spot. Foreign Magi traveling a cosmic trip to discover something they knew they were missing at home. These people were pursuing the mystery of GOD’s human face. They weren’t participating in a pre-ordained cultural festival where everyone knew what to expect and exactly where to find it.
Let’s wake up Christmas morn and realize that Jesus ain’t in the box under the tree. Let’s spend the rest of the year looking for him day by day in all the strange and far out places where the real Jesus would hang out. Every day is the right day to celebrate the birth of a simple, peace-filled heart. Every day is the day to open our hearts and wallets to the moments of grace and giftedness this spinning world presents.
Now, if you’re sittin there accusing me of doing the Grinch thing – trying to take the fun out of gift-giving and parties and family get togethers – I wanna say this…
Party on. I’ve made my peace with the Consumer Mass season. It’s a phase we’re going through – a century long rush to consume the planet. And I know that GOD is creative enough to use such a phase to infect the world with the bug of compassion. Compassion – the anti-dote to consumerism.
Jesus arrived on earth at a time when the Roman empire had created the roads and intercultural networks that would take the germ of compassion that had been jealously guarded for centuries by the Jewish people – and let it run global. The Jesus way of life spread through the world on those Roman highways like an epidemic that could not be contained by any one culture’s box or empire. It infected the world. It went from a mono-cultural religion to a multi-cultural, multi-faceted movement.
Jesus is about to arrive again. The world has come to another point in history when compassion is about to go fractal. And it’s the networks that our mass consumption has created – the computer tech, transport tech systems that have made this planet small enough for one small simple truth to save us all.
The failure of Copenhagen – the greatest minds, the greatest powers, the deepest pockets cannot save this world from the consumer mono-culture that threatens it. Only one thing can save the world. The compassion of the Christ that proves there is no hurt that can’t be healed, no sin that can’t be forgiven, no life that can’t be redeemed, no power that can kill the hope, no religion that can contain the Spirit that lives in small and simple daily acts of love’s sacrafice that are born in unlikely places at just the right time.
Merry Christmas friends. It’s time!