Preparing for Christmas
I've been researching TVs.
We’re thinking about getting one for a family gift and it’s a painfully complex process. There are LED, Plasma, LCD and LED backlit LCD TVs. Some are 3D compatible, some are smart, and all come in a huge range of sizes. The variables in options and prices are nearly limitless.
Then I’m reading the Gospel selection for this Sunday, Luke 3:7-18, and begin to realize that preparing for Christmas isn’t about me and what I want. It’s about me and what God wants. Repentance, the inward decision to abandon selfishness for godliness, is very important, but with repentance comes a broader sense of responsibility that leavens my preparation.
And it’s hard.
It’s way easier to close our eyes and stop our ears to the complexity of social justice issues than to open them to the reality of poverty and oppression. It’s so much more convenient to follow the religious travelers to the other side of the Jericho road while hoping a Good Samaritan will come along and deal with the issues we’d rather ignore.
I don’t want to have to think about the conflict minerals in my iPhone, or wonder if someone in the Congo is suffering for the sake of the picture on the TV. Nor do I particularly enjoy the possibility that workers in a Bangladesh factory lost their lives for the sake of holding down the cost my shirt.
Every Sunday we confess the fact that by simply living in this world we find ourselves enmeshed in the inequities of this world. Mere confession of “things done, and things left undone” doesn’t mean we’ve been absolved of responsibility to make things better.
I’ve been reading Uncle Tom’s Cabin and find it quietly disturbing. One of its themes is the idea that, because slavery is so intricately interwoven into the fabric of 19th Century industry, it would be naive to think such a great moral blight could truly be removed from our culture.
But wouldn’t that be like saying Auschwitz was necessary because it was good for the local economy?
When the crowd hears John’s preaching, they ask for specific action steps to stop living wrong and start living right, because that’s the heart of repentance.
And John nails it:
– Never let possessions take priority over people.
– Never use position to advance yourself at the expense of others.
– Never use power to advance yourself at expense of others.
Here’s a personal confession: I’ve observed that in almost every couple there is one who is more verbal while the other maybe more reflective. I’m the verbal one. In the earlier days of our marriage, I would sometimes argue with Rebecca. And something would happen to me in the process. Winning the argument would often become more important than strengthening the relationship.
Like a soldier I would use power to dominate – hammering away with the weapon of words. Like a tax collector I’d wield position to win. And finding the common ground of shared tunics and common meals wasn’t on the radar. This was a debate and the object was to win.
By the grace of God I’m hopeful I don’t do that anymore. The point, however, is that preparing for Christmas involves a fundamental shift in relationships that is nothing less than what repentance requires. As we prepare for the coming of Christ we must refrain from using power to dominate our relationships, and we must guard against the suffering of people both in and beyond our immediate community.
Christ’s advent will change everything, but as “little Christs” we change what we can, now.