I have an embarrassing confession to make for someone who writes a blog called “Faith Reflections”.
For much of my life, Santa has seemed a lot more exciting than the Nativity.
I was thinking this morning about what kind of Christmas reflection I could write that would help focus the “reason for the season”.
Truth is, for many years the “reason for the season” seemed out of place and ordinary alongside the color, music, food and presents of Christmas.
I know a lot of people have got into the book about love languages.. I never did really, because it seemed a bit to simplistic.
I think the truth though, is that presents do matter to me as a symbol of how I am seen and valued.
Christmas for me was about being seen, and the anticipation of Christmas day was fantastic, but the day itself was often a bit of a let down.
I remember as a kid always dreaming about what I would get for Christmas, and after about the age of 5 or 6, each year I would end up in tears because reality didn’t match my fantasy.
As Leeanne, who is wired completely differently to me and for whom presents arent such a big deal, discovered how much they mattered to me, Christmas became a time of intense stress for her as she tried to find the gift that wouldn’t cause me to look despondent.
I think the reason the nativity seemed so boring and out of place for me was that it didn’t help my identity. It didn’t help that part of me that was looking for validation in what people gave me.
Embarrassingly it was only about 4 years ago that I started to realise what was going on for me at Christmas. At that stage we were living in Mornington, Victoria with a bunch of homeless young people, another family and some single team members.
Christmas morning had come and gone, and Leeanne had really missed the mark with her present. I can’t remember what it was, I just remember the sense of grief I felt. (I told you it was embarrassing).
My kids were having a great time but I really didn’t want to go to the Christmas lunch we put on for the young people with a number of people from the community. It ended up being a very special time. I have include the photo so you can picture the kind of thing it was.
After lunch, one of the young people we had been looking after for quite a while came up to me and said, “I have something for you”, and gave me a present. I said thanks and put it on the table, not wanting to open it in front of all the people at the lunch. After lunch was finished I took the present to our flat and opened it. It was a U2 Concert DVD that I had been wanting for a long time. The young woman lived on welfare so didn’t have a lot of money, so this gift meant a lot to me.
As I processed what had just happened, it hit me how self centered I had been. Looking for Christmas to make me feel good about myself was missing the point. I began to see that I had been missing the point of Christmas my whole life.
The nativity looks ordinary in comparison with the glitz and glamour because Jesus came to introduce a whole new scheme for determining a persons value, not play the world’s game.
I was deeply affected today by an email I received from Nentawe.
Nentawe is a young man who is leading Fusion in Nigeria. For weeks he and the little team had been preparing to re-enact the nativity story with hundreds of primary school aged Kids as part of an Advent Pageant. The Fusion team is in Kaduna, where tribal and religious violence can be very serious.
Yesterday armed men burst into his home, threatened him and took his computer, phone and everything he was using to coordinate the pageant. There were threats about bombs, but the little team decided to go ahead. This is what he wrote:
Thanks so much for the prayers, we had a wonderful advent pageant with over 600 kids!
On Monday bombs went off in a village called Mando just about 5 km from Nassarawa, and the visit of the Underworld guys to my home were great threats towards the event, the Police officer in charge of Nassarawa said he just did have enough men and also if an individual like me was attacked then that is a threat to the event, I regretted reporting the incident to the Police, team members were a bit down with the news, but after much persuasion and agreements, we resolved to having a 2 hours event from 3pm – 5 pm, but ended by 5:30pm, and had a hard time convincing the kids to go home. How do you explain to the kids that their having fun is a possible threat for a bomb attack, one of the kids asked me ; ‘ Uncle Nentawe what did we do to this people that they want to attack us with bombs? Are they human beings of devils?’ I did not have any answer I just said, they don’t want us to be free, they want us to fearful and not to enjoy the peace and freedom the Prince of Peace have brought to us just as we watched in the advent parade.
The Children did a great job acting and they directed the play themselves while we just supervised, we had xmas gifts to the kids which included the Fusion Branded excercise books and t-shirts, biscuits and detergent to the kids.
It was a great show and a nice one, we are grateful that no bombs went off, and it was very successful and they kids all wants us to it again next year!
Thank you all for your prayers and support!
Merry Christmas and Happy Newyear from the kids in Nassarawa and the hard working team here.
As I read the email, I saw in a fresh way just what a revolutionary thing the nativity is. Baby Jesus isn’t wrapped in Coca Cola colors and isn’t born in luxury, but He does institute a revolution.
The Nativity will never look brighter, louder or prettier than Santa, Turkey and presents.
I love how J.B. Philips paraphrases Romans 12:2:
Don’t let the world around you squeeze you into its own mould
The world has a mould, and it many ways it is seen most clearly at Christmas.
Jesus comes to play by a different set of rules.
The Christmas of the movies and shopping centers is about money, about food, about self interest.
The Christmas of the nativity is about a full life in the face of poverty, relationship in the face of persecution, freedom that comes from helplessness.
I am embarrassed at my self focused approach to Christmas.
It turns out the reason for the season is well worth remembering.
It brings hope in Kaduna, and at a time when my life is in a transition of sorts, it brings hope to me.