Tidings of Discomfort and Joy: Christmas as Resistance

What would occur if everybody who celebrates Christmas within the U.S. agreed to overlook the presents, the stockings and the events, and as an alternative use the day to behave on the precise message of the Christmas story?

For Christians within the U.S., December 25 is broadly described as a vacation of “consolation and pleasure,” but when these of us who have fun this vacation really sit with the Christmas story that we’re presupposed to be celebrating, we might discover ourselves thrown right into a deep and productive discomfort — a dedication to just accept the dangers and messiness of performing in solidarity with those that face probably the most structural violence on this nation, and performing in resistance to all that impedes justice and human flourishing.

That individuals within the U.S. not often see Christmas on this manner is a sworn statement to the extent to which Christmas has been domesticated. It’s not as a result of U.S. Christians concentrate on the Nativity tales to the exclusion of Jesus’s ministry; these tales have their very own radical sensibilities. For instance, Mary’s Magnificat imagines a world through which the winners and the losers change place. What would that change seem like in our society as we speak? This isn’t a query most U.S. Christians ask at Christmas as a result of we’re too busy specializing in materialism and particular person pleasure.

Given the challenges of life in a society that worships cash, rewards the few and punishes everybody else, the will for a vacation of “consolation and pleasure” is comprehensible. However Christmas has an untapped potential to shake up Christian communities if reimagined as an invite to embark on the identical work Jesus did, in our time and place.

If we consider Jesus as a miracle employee, an important instructor, a thinker or as God within the flesh, we miss one of many foremost issues we all know in regards to the precise particular person: He was a member of an oppressed and exploited group, and arranged them to withstand their Roman oppressors. He did this by providing another understanding of actuality that helped the oppressed and exploited know themselves to be beloved and valuable, rendering them each braver and extra compassionate.

On the coronary heart of this resistance was Jesus’s understanding of the “kingdom of God” or “kingdom of heaven.” We don’t dwell in an period of kingdoms, however Jesus did and the dominion he imagined was in direct contrast with the kingdom of Caesar. In Jesus’s day, Caesar’s kingdom was bodily violent, politically oppressive, economically exploitative and spiritually dehumanizing. God’s kingdom, as Jesus skilled it, was nonviolent, politically liberating, economically simply and radically humanizing. Jesus labored to co-create this kingdom by tending to the sick, feeding the hungry, sharing his concepts, consuming with anybody and everybody who would be a part of him (in resistance to the standing hierarchies of eating in 1st-century Judea), and providing hope and steering to the devalued and oppressed.

Love, for Jesus, was on the coronary heart of the holy area: love of God, self and neighbor, and love of enemy. Love meant treating others as one would want to be handled. Love concerned compassion and kindness, even towards enemies, however love was not primarily a matter of emotions; it required making choices (serving God instead of wealth, for instance) and taking radical motion to assist these most in want.

Jesus appears to have seen himself as a prophet in the lineage of Isaiah, bringing excellent news to the poor, launch to the captives and freedom to the oppressed. Rome and the Jewish management in Jerusalem each burdened the Jews of Judea, and Jesus’s actions addressed each forms of burden. In a single story of Jesus casting out a demon, the demon referred to itself as “legion” (the time period for a Roman army unit) and was expelled into 2,000 pigs (probably the most unclean animal in response to Jewish understanding on the time) who drowned within the sea, absolutely a “Romans go dwelling!” message if there ever was one. Whereas in Jerusalem, Jesus interrupted the business of money changers exterior the central Jewish place of worship, thereby difficult a follow that was economically exploitative of the poorest Jews.

Jesus additionally anticipated his followers to indicate their love of God and neighbor by caring for the poor and people in want, and went as far as to counsel that when nations (not people however societies) deal with the poor and people in want they’re tending to Jesus himself, whereas nations that fail the poor and people in want are failing Jesus.

This final level returns us to our personal time and place, the place our society fails the poor and people in want frequently. Our society is as bodily violent, politically oppressive, economically exploitative and spiritually dehumanizing as Roman Judea ever was, even when the main points are dramatically totally different.

For instance, we don’t dwell in a kingdom, so the concept of the “kingdom of God” might not have the identical prompt resonance of religious and political resistance as we speak that it did when Jesus proposed it. Different phrases have been supplied, resembling Martin Luther King Jr.’s “beloved community,” theologian Ada Maria Isasi-Diaz’s “kin-dom of God,” or the phrases I usually use, “love’s area” and “love’s realm.” A pastor good friend makes use of the time period, “the economic system of God,” which could even be rendered “the polity and economic system of affection” for many who don’t discover conventional God language useful.

At its finest, Christmas presents a chance for many who have fun it to take up our personal half in resisting the powers that be and birthing another imaginative and prescient of society.

We are able to reject financial violence and political oppression and work towards a society through which everybody has the identical entry to energy in all its kinds — political, social and financial.

We are able to reject exploitation and work to reimagine after which change how sources are developed and shared.

We are able to reject dehumanization and search to come across all individuals, even our enemies, as absolutely human.

To construct practices of resistance into Christmas, we should reject materialism in favor of generosity and compassion, and reframe the vacation round communal labor in solidarity with those that face oppression of all types. These practices, particularly if taken up broadly, would transfer our society nearer to justice and to a chance for all individuals to flourish.

This communal labor of solidarity may take many kinds. Those that have fun Christmas may ship water for migrants on the U.S. aspect of the southern border. Christians who are usually not focused by racism on this society may put our our bodies on the road at protests towards racist police/vigilante violence. All of us may be a part of placing employees on picket strains. Or we may take part in vigils and different actions towards mass incarceration and significantly towards executions, remembering that the particular person whose delivery Christmas celebrates died of state-based capital punishment.

There are a variety of how to develop such practices of resistance, individually, amongst our households and social networks, in political actions and in non secular settings. What all of those approaches have in widespread is a dramatic change from our emphasis on consolation to a dedication to discomfort within the service of solidarity and resistance.

To make Christmas a chance for resistance, those that have fun it want to maneuver from consolation and pleasure to discomfort and pleasure.

The discomfort of working to deliver a simply society into being will not be joyless. There’s pleasure in group, pleasure in labor, pleasure in hope, pleasure in struggling much less or in watching individuals who have struggled discover new ease. There’s pleasure within the new presents that individuals can supply these round them after they lastly have what they want and are handled with respect.

If we would like December 25 to develop into what it by no means has been — the “most fantastic time of the 12 months” — then our work is earlier than us. Could all who have fun Christmas select to take it up.