I’ve been pondering my experience of Christmas lately. On the one hand, the well-known story of Jesus’ birth. Mary and Joseph were poor people, living in a time of Roman occupation. The Emperor had demanded a census and Mary and Joseph made the trip to Bethlehem to be registered. The town was overcrowded and the only place they could find to stay was in the equivalent of a barn. That is where
Jesus was born. Humble beginnings despite the singing of the angels and the visits from shepherds and then kings.
On the other hand, I think about how I see Christmas portrayed in our generation in North America. Far more emphasis on Santa than on Jesus. And certainly not poor or humble. We are encouraged to buy lots of presents, decorate extravagantly and cook a meal fit for royalty. The average Canadian adult spent an estimated $1,500 on Christmas in 2017. About 41 per cent of that was slated for gifts, with the rest going to holiday travel and entertainment.
This year I’m going to think about how my behaviour at Christmas lives out the things I value all of the time, including the commitments our church has made.
The ELCIC has a concern for the poor, and for those who are ill-housed or homeless. How are Jesus’ poor origins reflected in my Christmas choices? What portion of my Christmas spending should I share with those who are in need?
The ELCIC has a concern for the environment. How am I taking the principles of reduce, reuse, recycle into my Christmas planning? I want to give thought into any gift to make sure it is needed and will wear well. I need to think about the amount of waste in both packaging and wrapping as I make gift preparations.
The ELCIC has a concern for refugees. Is there a new Canadian who needs a welcome into my Christmas celebrations? What about using CLWR’s Gifts from the Heart to support their important ministry with refugees and internally displaced people?
The ELCIC has a concern for those whoare marginalized. We are committed to working towards reconciliation with Indigenous Peoples in Canada. We are concerned about the justice and corrections systems in Canada—for inmates and for prison workers. In our prayers and in our activities at Christmas how can we reach out to those who are often viewed as “other” in our society?
The ELCIC has a concern for peace and particularly for peace in the Holy Land. On Christmas Eve I want to remember that we join people around the world on the 24th of every month to pray for peace in the Holy Land.
The ELCIC wants to extend hospitality to our inter-religious neighbours. We want to reach out in our community to those of other faiths. What kind of conversations can we have with these neighbours about holiday traditions? What might we learn about Hannukah or Kwanzaa?
In the story A Christmas Carol, Ebenezer Scrooge commits to living every day like Christmas. I want to do the reverse. I want to live Christmas like every other day where I try my best to live out my faith following the example of Jesus. How will you celebrate this Christmas?
National Bishop Susan Johnson
Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada