Christmas captured?

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Christmas is a deeply meaningful season of the Christian year. Commercial interests have increasingly turned it into a secular frenzy of unconscious consumerism. Christmas has become a spiritual battleground: Christmas vs Xmas; the spirit of Christ, God’s love for the world vs the anti-Christ of uncaring consumption and the rule of things. The good news is that there is another way and we are free to choose it.

For Christians, Christmas is a celebration of the birth of Jesus, the Christ, Emmanuel, God with us. It is about the simplicity of a radically different sort of King being born to earthly parents who are materially poor but rich in love, faith, obedience and courage. It is about peace amidst violent strife – gentle souls, human beings and animals, in a humble stable, together and at peace, bathed in love and light, filled with awe and respect. Good News for the world. The birth of our Saviour and the hope of reconciliation and redemption.

How the latter contrasts with the Xmas that confronts us in the shopping malls: Xmas symbolised in the main not by the Christ child but by Father Xmas, Xmas trees, sleighs, snow, glitter and gaudy decorations – signifying what?!

Reflected here is a battle for our souls and the stakes couldn’t be higher:  our salvation and the survival of life on Earth.

While billions of human beings across the world lack adequate food, clean water, decent sanitation, shelter and clothing let alone access to formal education and health services, a minority – albeit a substantial one – are consuming the gifts of the Earth in completely unsustainable quantities and in forms that are destroying the lives of others and destroying the environment on which we and our fellow creatures depend for our survival. WWF has estimated that if everyone in the world were to consume as much as the average UK citizen consumes then we’d need three worlds to provide for us!  And it would not be long before we had depleted, degraded and effectively destroyed all three.

Consumerism prioritises quantity over content and quality.  It drives short-termism and denies deadly long-term impacts.  It commodifies everything including even such sacred commons as water. It treats animals as things, mere objects to be used, abused and consumed. One example of what we are consuming – the meat, eggs and dairy products from factory farms – is driving climate change, deforestation, habitat destruction, ocean dead zones and other forms of environmental degradation, biodiversity loss and more.

We all need enough and God provides enough for us all. We do not need more than what is enough. The Earth cannot afford to provide enough for all of us if some of us are taking more than what we need.  If what we consume, including the quantities in which we consume it, is damaging to the well-being of others – whether people, animals or the Earth’s eco-systems – we are consuming either too much and/or things that we shouldn’t be consuming at all, like for example all the most common forms of plastic.  Such over-consumption and wrong consumption are reflections of our having lost our way as human beings and as Christians and lost touch with what is of real value to God and to ourselves.  Fundamentally this is a spiritual problem.

Let us get back on track. God waits to help us. By God’s grace we need only to choose another way and it will be made possible for us.  Let us, therefore, . . .

  • Re-engage with the authentic good news of Christmas;
  • Touch base regularly with what we truly value;
  • Check that how we are using our talents, time and money as well as how we regard and treat other people, our fellow creatures and Mother Earth herself, are aligned with our values;
  • Simplify our lives and reduce what we consume;
  • Consume what we consume mindfully, aware of where it comes from and at what cost to others, and consume it with respect and with gratitude.

Wishing all my fellow Christians a most blessed and joyful Christmas and may this season be for all people a time to enjoy the fellowship of family and friends, and be a time of peace and goodwill towards all including our fellow creatures and the whole community of life that is this wonderful world.

Frank Molteno

December 2017