Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Christmas Countdown: 12 Days to Go.

I don't know if I'll succeed this year but I'm going to try anyway.

Last year, and I think, even the year before, I started this "christmas countdown' series that was loosely inspired by that silly Christmas song: the twelve days of Christmas. I felt the urge to highlight contemporary issues that are somehow related to the Christmas story, and what better way than to tie it all in a countdown, of sorts.

I was reviewing the series I wrote last year, and realised that I was late by a day in starting the series last year. Looks like I'm doing the same again this year. Some things really don't change, do they? Anyway, better late than never at all as the wise men would say.

Christmas is really a strange combination of events. On the one hand there is the spiritual dimension that is celebrated across churches all around the world - that of God becoming flesh and coming to earth as a baby, but there is also the commercial and economic dimension one cannot ignore. This is the season that retailers, mall owners, restaurants, tv networks, entertainment gurus are all waiting for.

'tis the season of giving, we are told, and retailers are only too glad to assist us in the giving provided our our purchasing power and credit card limits match our generosity. And if there are any limits, then, businesses are only too glad and ready to provide solutions in the form of easy installments.

Most Christians that I know are uncomfortable with this excessive commercialisation of this sacred event. If you've read my blog last year and the year before, you would have noticed that I myself wasn't too enthusiastic about it either. Now it's not that I've had a change of heart since then, but I wonder if there is possibly a common ground somewhere even though God and mammon are polar opposites.

It would be a stretch, I know, to bring together the extremes of consumerism (that finds its peak during this season) with the piety and solemnity one associates with the birth of the Christ Child in a lowly manger in an obscure little town of Bethlehem.

The original Christmas story is the exact antithesis of everything that's being done in the name of Christmas in recent years. Poverty, depravity, abandonment, homelessness, rejection, oppression as well as celebration of meekness have been an intrinsic part of the gospel narrative. One simply can't get away from this aspect of the Christmas story because it not only gives us a better understanding of Christ's work on earth but helps us understand the meaning of His sacrifice.

Now words like sacrifice are not the first thing that come to our mind this season. This is the time we like to indulge in the best of food, the best of 'drinks', the best in fashion, the best in entertainment... it's a time to satisfy our desires with the best that the world has to offer, and create memories of the good times that will, hopefully, last forever.

However, the cross and the sufferings at Calvary cannot be wished away no matter how hard we try. Christ's journey on earth may have begun in Bethlehem but it's purpose was death on the cross and the eventual resurrection. So there was a bit of a tragic element even though the 'meek and mild' Christ Child was to rise again from the dead.

Now the question is, how can these spiritual elements find their common ground in what has essentially become a hedonistic fiesta?

I may not have all the right answers that could satisfy everyone because it will really be difficult and some would say, quite unnecessary. The twain can rarely meet because the focus behind both are different.

'Tis the season of giving, after all. And I think, perhaps, one way to honour Christ would be to emulate the way He gave of himself, and to be more 'giving' even during our moments of indulgence. Instead of turning this into a 'me and mine' feast, we could perhaps look beyond our limited circle and consider for a moment those groups that are lacking in the things we take for granted.

We could, of course, make the retailers happy as well by making purchases that could be turned into investments in other people's lives and in making them happy.

In other words, we can use this time to look for needs that we can meet, happiness that we can bring, joy that we can share, love that we can spread to all those around.

In doing this, we might just bridge the two Christmas-es together, and perhaps, make a small difference in the lives of people who might be waiting for a miracle.

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