16 December 2009

Meditation: "A New Angle on Christmas"

"...he has shown strength with his arm;
he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts.
He has brought down the powerful from their thrones,
and lifted up the lowly;
he has filled the hungry with good things,
and sent the rich away empty..." (Mary's Magnificat from Luke 2:51-53)


Dear Friends,

The other night, Allison and I spread out on our bed the Christmas gifts we have accumulated for Miriam and Margaret. Last year we thought we were careful to not go overboard with gifts--to keep it simple and understated. Despite our best intentions, last year the pile of gifts under the tree was overwhelming. What we didn't account for were all the gifts sent by aunts and uncles and grandparents. Those in addition to what we had and, well, let's just say by mid-Christmas Day last year Miriam looked like a kid at a pie eating contest that had sucked down one banana cream pie piece too many. Waaay too much "Christmas."

So this year, with renewed dedication, we carefully reviewed the simple, functional gifts we had for the girls--needed clothing, books, craft supplies, and the like--and made a contingency plan in the event that grandparents and other relatives are overly generous. We think we have a handle on it this time around.

But after viewing this video, I can't help but wonder if we're even thinking about it all in the right way. Maybe we're not being radical enough.

Some of you have probably seen this video already and have heard of the "Advent Conspiracy" that comes out of the Imago Dei community in Portland.

What this video challenges me to do is to think about "gifts" at Christmas in a different way. How can my giving and receiving benefit the world--and not just the giver and receiver? What is the deepest meaning of Christmas that Mary sings in her magnificent Magnificat? What do I really want my children to learn and experience about God's desire for our world expressed in the gift of Jesus--who came to love and serve and offer himself for the sake of others?

God sneaks into the world in an infant named Jesus who will grow up and turn upside down everything we think we know. The commemoration of his birth has become so domesticated and commercialized--perhaps it's time, as this video suggests, to radically shake up Christmas gift-giving in a way that is true to what Christians really believe it's all about.

Blessings on you in these waning days of Advent,