Christmas where?

I was going to try to write something, to sermonise a little, but this says it.

Christmas where?

… and so does this:

Finally, in considering the situation of migrants and refugees, I would point to yet another element in building a better world, namely, the elimination of prejudices and presuppositions in the approach to migration. Not infrequently, the arrival of migrants, displaced persons, asylum-seekers and refugees gives rise to suspicion and hostility. There is a fear that society will become less secure, that identity and culture will be lost, that competition for jobs will become stiffer and even that criminal activity will increase. The communications media have a role of great responsibility in this regard: it is up to them, in fact, to break down stereotypes and to offer correct information in reporting the errors of a few as well as the honesty, rectitude and goodness of the majority. A change of attitude towards migrants and refugees is needed on the part of everyone, moving away from attitudes of defensiveness and fear, indifference and marginalization – all typical of a throwaway culture – towards attitudes based on a culture of encounter, the only culture capable of building a better, more just and fraternal world. The communications media are themselves called to embrace this “conversion of attitudes” and to promote this change in the way migrants and refugees are treated.
— Pope Francis. Message for the World Day of Migrants and Refugees, which will be held on 19 January 2014

Advent: we’re not used to waiting

Dr Rowan Williams’s Reflections on Advent are superb. Some extracts are below, but do read it all or view the video.

We’re not a culture that’s very used to waiting.

During Advent, Christians go back to that time of waiting as the Bible shows it to us. They read again the prophecies in the Hebrew Scriptures and the Old Testament. They read about how people were longing for an end to slavery, longing to be back home in some sense, longing to be at home with God again, longing for reconciliation. And all of that is expressed in the most powerful metaphors, especially in the prophesies of Isaiah, metaphors about the desert blossoming, metaphors about the rain falling, metaphors about day dawning after there’s been a long, long night.

So during this four weeks before Christmas, that’s what Christians are reflecting on. When Jesus comes into the life of the world with something unplanned, overwhelming, something that makes a colossal difference, we long for it and yet we don’t quite know what it’s going to involve. … know some of the difference he’s made to our lives as individuals, to the life of the Christian community, the Church, to the whole world. And yet there’s more. We’re still waiting to see what might happen if Jesus was allowed into our lives that bit more fully; that bit more radically.

. . . Advent is a time when [Christians] do a bit of self-examination. Have I allowed Jesus in yet? Has the good news really made the full impact it might make, or is my life still locked into old patterns, into darkness, into slavery, into being not at home with myself or God or with other people? It’s a time of self-examination, of repentance indeed, facing myself honestly and saying sorry for the things that don’t easily face the light. And it’s a time of expectation and a time of hope. A time, therefore, also of quiet.

It’s been said so often it hardly needs saying again, but it is rather a pity that for a few weeks before Christmas we are saturated with Christmas carols. We don’t have quite the sort of quiet we need to think, ‘Well what would it be if Jesus really came as if for the first time into my life? What would it be for the good news really to change me.’ Because for that to happen I need some reflective time; I need some peace; I need to slow down; I need, you might say, to take my time about things.

… It may be deeply painful as well as deeply joyful. Death and judgment, and hell and heaven. It will be that experience of confronting the truth in such a way that you’re changed for good. We say yes to all of that even with the pain and the risk. Or God forbid we say no we can’t cope with the truth, we’d prefer our own darkness. And so part of our self-examination during Advent is looking into ourselves and saying, ‘Well can I get myself to the point where I can look at God and say well there’s truth and there’s beauty and light and love and it’s painful for me, weak and stupid though I am, to face that, and yet I’d rather be there with the truth, however much it costs, than be locked up with myself?’

During Advent, we try to get ourselves a bit more used to the truth—the truth about ourselves, which is not always very encouraging, but the truth about God above all which is always encouraging. The One who comes will come with a great challenge. It will be like fire on the earth as the Bible says. And yet the One who comes is coming in love. He’s coming to set us free. And that’s something well worth waiting for.

Allelulia! Humbug!

boxOn NPR’s All Things Considered, 2 December 2004 (broadcast in Australia on ABC Newsradio), John Boykin asked, “Can the ‘Christ’ Be Kept in Christmas?” For years, the retail aspects of Christmas have overwhelmed its religious significance. Boykin shares this frustration and proposes a radical solution. He proposes making Christmas into a gift-giving secular holiday, and moving what little of Christ is left over to Easter.

I agree with his purpose, especially if all Christmas did was to mark the birth of Jesus. But it also celebrates the idea of ‘incarnation’, God come to us in human flesh—Imanuel, ‘God with us’. And for this, I would still like to be able to sing the Christmas songs and go to midnight Eucharist on Christmas eve. I’m never quite sure whether Christmas is “Allelulia!’ or ‘Bah, humbug!

Do the Canadian Mennonites have the right idea with their Buy Nothing at Christmas campaign?