Now that Epiphany is over, we are looking back on Advent and Christmas, and remembering our celebrations — special time with family, special foods or gifts. An article in the Presbyterian Hunger Program’s winter newsletter entitled “For Which Christmas Are You Preparing” by Rev. Ellie Stock, Presbytery of Giddings-Lovejoy, St. Louis, Missouri, led me to reflect on my warm-fuzzy memories in relation to questions she raises.
In terms of the real celebration God wants for Christmas, have I missed the boat? Rev. Stock describes our three Christmas celebrations:
The first is the Christmas of Santa and Society: lights, decorations, feasts, shopping, hustle and bustle, Christmas trees, the commercial bottom line — fun but superficial, often numbing us to deeper needs and blinding us to the season’s larger meaning. The second is the Christmas of Faith and Family: tradition, memories, fireplace gatherings with family and friends, candlelight services, carols, and pageants with baby Jesus. Its theme is love, and its gift is hope; but the warm feeling invoked is incomplete unless it leads to a larger truth. The third is the Christmas of Mary and Messiah, the advent of one who provokes Herod and stands up to Pilot and other despots who prefer that God not meddle in human affairs, which unnerves us as well. This is the Christmas of justice, truth and love in our world, where we frequently find ourselves standing in the way.
Rev. Stock goes on to reflect on her community of Ferguson, Missouri and how the responses to the current events reflect the three Christmas celebrations. She notes that to “acknowledge the underlying issues of prejudice, racism, and white privilege that affect the economic, political, and cultural institutions…that will bring systemic change, justice, and equity in Ferguson and beyond” are needed to celebrate the true Christmas of the Messiah.
What do we in North Carolina need to acknowledge to address issues of “prejudice, racism, and white privilege that affect the economic, political, and cultural institutions …that will bring systemic change, justice, and equity” to our state and citizens? May we make changes before we have a Ferguson event and make the changes Mary called for in her Christmas song of justice “He has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts. He has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly; he has filled the hungry with good things and sent the rich away empty…” (Luke 1:46-53)
As our General Assembly and Congress reconvene, may we remember the Christmas call to “lift of the lowly and fill the hungry” in our advocacy. May we celebrate the Christmas of Mary and the Messiah.