CHRISTMAS 2012 C
“The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light.” “The yoke of their burden, and the bar across their shoulders, the rod of their oppressor, you have broken as on the day of Midian.”
This Seasonal Celebration seems to be the world trying to live something new for a time, although the reality in the News Media blocks us from believing Christ’s message is possible; Newtown, Syria, Nigeria, Oil spills and tar sands, and world economic collapse. If we could live our Christian message; if we could translate Jesus’ call to communion and connection, to respect, to forgiveness and love, into deeper human relationships, renewed structures of institutions and governments, could we not find a new way to share the earth?
This past week, I attended a potluck supper at First United in support of Rodney Watson, a young man who has found sanctuary in the Church. He is a married man with a Canadian son. He has been in sanctuary for the past three years unable to leave the building on the corner of Gore and Hastings. When he enlisted in the American Army because of unemployment, he was deployed in Iraqas army cook but found himself searching vehicles for weapons and explosives and putting guns to peoples heads. He came to question the war and when he returned to the UShe fled to Canadarather than be deployed again. He is one of 40 USwar resisters in Canada. Immigration officials ordered him deported in Sept. 2009. Over three years living in Sanctuary, unable to leave a building for fear of arrest.
At that gathering I met another man, Jose Figueroa, and his wife from El Salvador. He has been here 13 years and his three children are all Canadian. After 9/11 the Canadian Gov’t deemed him to be a terrorist because he belonged to the Student Union which supported the FLMN (Liberation Front). No opposition was encountered when he freely admitted his association with FLMN when he entered the country as a refugee 13 years ago. The FLMN was elected into power by democratic vote in 2009. The Canadian government does not have FLMN on it’s Terrorist Group List and has diplomatic relations with the FLMN in El Salvador, yet he has a deportation order hanging over him.
War resisters. Refugees. The rod of their oppressor, you have broken.
We want a world of respect for the rights of every person and a world of peace!
In the Editorial Page of the Saturday edition of the VancouverSun, there was an article “There’s something for all in Christmas tradition and ritual”Why is that? Because Christ has come to respond to the deepest desire of the human spirit. The article states that “Behind all the secular busyness of Christmas, there remain the inescapable spiritual undercurrents that ripple through western culture because of the pervasive influence of religious belief upon its founding institutions and their underlying philosophical frameworks.” The Christmas story of the divine born of a humble carpenter and his wife, sought by assassins sent by those in power, becoming refugees and fleeing to a foreign land for safety, and returning to save the world is a story that brings hope to humankind. The article goes on to say that this story fashioned enduring values that we continue to want to embrace: “that the humblest deserve the same rights and respect as the powerful; that the wealthy have obligations to the poor; that mercy, forgiveness and generosity are redeeming qualities in individuals, organizations and governments..
Many of the seasonal traditions that are subsumed into the secular festivities embraced by non-Christians have their origins in these spiritual beliefs.. The giving of gifts; charity towards the poor; the unspoken injunction to be hospitable, even to strangers- perhaps especially to strangers!- are all manifestations of those values.”
The article goes on to say, “They represent not just the shared beliefs of a particular religion, but the common humanity that should bind us into one global family rather than the differences that seek to divide us.Whether Christian or Hindu, Jew or Buddist, Sikh or Muslim, agnostic, atheist or secular humanist, there is something for everyone in the big tent of Christmas with its principles of good will toward all others, devotion to peace instead of strife, celebration of family and community, generosity in equal measure toward friends and strangers, toward the poor and the lonely and the marginalized.”
Yes even the secular newspaper admits that Christ’s coming speaks to the deepest hopes for the family of humankind and his home on this earth. People of all faith and no faith get caught up in the Christmas Celebrations no matter how secular we might try to make them. Why?
Because truth resonates with the deepest yearning of the human spirit.
We see rays of light that penetrate the darkness.
Prisoners from Penitentiariesout at Mission, some who carry the blood of innocent victims on the hands, cooking up and serving meals to reach out in a gesture of kindness to others. Trying to rediscover their humanity. Reaching out for a gift they cannot earn, the gift of forgiveness to heal and restore dignity. To see on the news a mother whose son was killed attend such a meal trying to understand the journey of someone who has caused her such great pain.
The Door is Open and many Churches and Organizationsthat prepare meals for those unemployed and unemployable.
The clothing and outreachthrough Salvation Army, Union Gospel mission, Christian Churches and Non-Christian Faiths.
Agape Street Ministrymeeting women offering friendship and prayer. Welcoming them to a healthy breakfast once a week and offering them an opportunity for community and prayer.
Mary’s Placewelcoming some fifty women twice weekly for warmth, friendship and an opportunity to peer counsel.
StreetToHome Foundationcalling the wealthy private sector to join with government to build secure housingwith supports for some of our city’s most chronically homeless individuals.
The growth of Metro Vancouver Alliance, a broad based Alliance of many institutions working for the Common Good.
Inland Refugee serviceshave been using Sacred Spirit Centre for their Food Bank distribution centre for the last yearafter losing space near the Cathedral.
Light does break through the darkness.
Mary gave birth to Christ. What is the process by which we give birth to faith in the world? Mary wants imitation, not admiration: Our task too is to give birth to Christ. Christmas isn't automatic, it can't be taken for granted. It began with Mary, but each of us is asked to make our own contribution to giving flesh to faith in the world. We need to let the word take such root in us that it begins to become part of our actual flesh.