As I walk the streets at Christmas, I’m a sucker for sentimental spirituality. I’m a sucker for fairy lights and carol musac (perhaps it’s the alt. worship background!) I’m a sucker for the liturgical elements of retail customer service. From the confession; ‘That old thing will never do’, through to the affirmation; “You look fabulous in that!’ The ‘seek and you will find’ of Christmas or Boxing Day bargain hunting can get me buzzing.I get all reminiscent when Humphrey B. Bear with a Rudolph nose comes on at Carols by Candelight. I can even appreciate the beauty of the expensive gifts that the smiling, beautiful (airbrushed?) people share with each other in the idyllic Christmas’ scenes portrayed in shop front window advertising.
Of course the presence of a shame faced beggar sitting in front of the same shop window tells a different story which exposes the superficiality of the ‘sentimentality story’. In the midst of excess it reminds me of the spiritual difficulties for many in the way we celebrate Christmas. This alternative story reminds me that the ‘true spirit’ of Christmas is perhaps more akin to the desperation of a young, unmarried pregnant couple, dis-located by the demands of an empire, walking the street’s in search of accommodation; a safe place where ‘The Word’ could be in-‘carne’- ted; ie. made flesh in a contested world.
In his paper ‘A Simplicity of Faith’ the radical community lawyer William Stringfellow states:
The theological exploration of biography or the theological reconnaissance of history are apt, and even normative, styles because each is congruent with the definitive New Testament insight and instruction: the Incarnation…
biography (and history), any biography and every biography, is inherently theological in the sense that it contains already – literally by virtue of the incarnation – the news of the gospel whether or not anyone discerns that. We are each one of us parables.
It is because of the greatest of Christmas ideas, the Incarnation which makes each one of us a parable, that we can take stories and the clash of stories seriously in our spiritual search at this time of year.
The ‘Know the Word’ queries of the Seeds covenant invite us to a spirituality which prayerfully considers the stories that found and shape our lives, our locality and culture. To consider the resonance of the ancient stories of the biblical tradition and those of the people and situations around us.
Attracted as I am, (like a moth to the fairy lights!), true Christmas spirituality cuts through sentimental abstraction. It is found in the struggle to hear and interpret the Word that is on the Street and to find a narrative pathway through the contradictions. The spirituality of Seeds suggests that these ‘songlines’ will often take us to the margins of our experience and to the back street, ‘stables’ and ‘mangers’ of our neighbourhoods. It is here, that we too, in the desperation of Christmas, may find a safe place for ‘The Word’ to be made flesh among us.
“What stories are animating your spirituality as you walk the streets of your own neighbourhood this Christmas?”
“What are you a sucker for and why?”
“What narrative alternatives are important for guiding your own path through Christmas desperation?”
Coming Soon: Seedy Advent Spirituality #2: Pray to the Baby Jesus?…On Truth, Troth and Taladega Nights.