In a couple of days it will be the first Sunday in Advent and the countdown to Christmas begins in earnest. As such it’s a fairly fundamental part of Christianity – that’s probably why, liturgically speaking, this is the start of the church year. It’s a big deal
But it’s only when I sat down to write this that I realised the irony of the season – Advent Sunday is sandwiched between two celebrations of consumerism, Black Friday and Cyber Monday. This wouldn’t be quite so jarring were it not for the scenes of chaos that will sweep our malls today, reminding us of the concept of ‘competitive shopping’ – you know, where you’re apparently allowed to pepper-spray your rivals in the pursuit of a bargain. The idea that Christmas has become too commercialised isn’t exactly new, but this year, with a growing awareness of the gap between rich and poor and associated corporate corruption, the issues seem more pronounced, more immediate.
Meanwhile, in contrast to this, the Christmas story is tinged with poverty and dominated by the idea of a God who enters into the physical world of dirt and straw, who incarnates, becomes human, hangs about with the poor and hopeless and lost. Concern for the poor, anger at injustice, are characteristic of Christ’s ministry, and any attempt to follow in his footsteps has to take this into account.
So in one sense, Christmas isn’t the end of a year, it’s a beginning, a time for new starts and a re-evaluation of what’s gone before. Christmas invites us to consider what it means for each one of is if God walked down highways and through villages 2,000 years ago. And, I guess, those videos I posted earlier invite us to ask what the heck has happened to our society if it’s worth pepper-spraying someone over an X-Box. And, as we prepare to light candles and open the doors of our advent calendars, those questions, perhaps more than ever, demand answers.