It has been a while since we last talked. I would like to think I have grown up from the times I asked for world peace, an end to poverty, or peace and goodwill to all mankind, but this year, I would like to ask for a little Christmas miracle again.
You still do these, yes? I mean, besides annually violating the space-time continuum visiting every house in the span of a single night, and monitoring the behaviour of all of earth’s children without parental consent or supervision like a red-vested NSA, you still perform miracles right?
This year, for Christmas, I wish us Christians would stop being so precious.
We complain about the war on Christmas, as if it is surprising that a generation of non-believers obsessed with stuff would dare turn a celebration about the birth of Jesus into the pursuit of happiness via shopping and family time.
We complain about the Greens’ latest push to remove the Lord’s Prayer from Parliament Houses, as if it pleases God to hear non-believers utter empty prayers.
Many church leaders refuse to cooperate with other churches to host combined Christmas services or carols, because they’re concerned that the product might advance other congregations at the expense of their own efforts to build ministries.
We invented the term “sheep-stealing”, for crying out loud.
(Did the person who came up with that end up on your naughty list?)
This isn’t the spirit of Christmas. This is the spirit of entitlement that pursues advancement.
Certainly, most of the people caught up in these behaviours fervently desire to advance the kingdom of God. And they appreciate that the kingdom of God extends into public spaces, parliament house and local church initiatives. But we are so eager to further God’s kingdom that we spend more energy defending the prestige of the efforts we’ve already made than actually advancing the kingdom of God. This can happen either in the public arena (such as insisting others say “Merry Christmas” and not “happy holidays”) or on a denominational scale (like when we are outraged that a cooler congregation has poached all our youth).
Like a spoilt three year old who sees the latest toy under their tree as a forgone conclusion, we are precious about our efforts and their historical cultural prominence.
Cultural prominence isn’t a God-given birthright, not to any group or tradition. Cultural prominence is merely the natural by-product when something becomes entrenched in a people’s way of life. We can predict it will decline when the factors that produced that popularity decline. In modern Australia, more toddlers believe in you than adults believe in the Christ that the original Saint Nicholas followed so devoutly.
This year all I want for Christmas is you. I want Saint Nicholas. I want a church of Saint Nicholases, people who focus so much on speaking truth and loving their neighbour they forget to fret about their position in society. Ironically, that’s the Christianity that created our now fading social dominance in the first place, so perhaps this year everyone can really get what they want for Christmas after all.
PS: I imagine Blitzen doesn’t get much fanmail because Rudolph is a glory hog, so please send him my regards.