Toward a Seedy Advent Spirituality #3: Enough of Christmas or a Christmas of Enough!… On Gratitude and Giving (Part C)
In considering Christmas I was talking to a friend who led Credo Gathering, a open prayer space that precedes the free lunchtime meal that homeless people often attend at Urban Seed. He framed the prayer time with the question,
“What are some things you are really looking forward to and are thankful for about this Christmas?”
As soon as the question was out of his mouth he realized that it was a disaster. People had clearly had enough of Christmas and story after story of disappointment, and dislocation started to flow.
He saw it as his first real ‘mistake’ on the street and an important step for him in his journey of solidarity alongside people on the margins of our culture.
Christmas can serve as a hollow, ironic and painful reminder for many that beyond the season, the give and take of our society has often not served them with the justice of enough.
In this vein I love the song ‘Something Beautiful’ by Sinead O’Connor picking up the themes of Jeremiah at Christmas. Talk about one cantankerous prophet quoting another!
Oh I wanna make something
So lovely for you
‘Cus I promised that’s what I’d do for you
With the bible I stole
I know you forgave my soul
Because such was my need on a chronic Christmas Eve
And I think we’re agreed that it should have been free
And you sang to me
They dress the wounds of my poor people
As though they’re nothing
Saying “peace, peace”
When there’s no peace (2x)
The most powerful time that I played this song was during a Credo Christmas Service with the same people mentioned above. It seemed to honestly express that so much of our ‘Christmas Spirit’ and giving can simplistically paper over the cracks of ‘chronic’ social and inter-personal relationship problems.
In this context, the honesty was refreshing.
As refreshing as the image of a stolen Bible being made ‘free’.
It remains for me a powerful statement about the power of ‘Knowing the Word’ in the midst of the ‘chronic’ tension many feel at Christmas time.
None of this is to simply cast people as passive ‘victims’ of injustice, or romaticise the diss-affections of the poor or suggest they hold a piety or perspective that is necessarily superior. In my experience of Western poverty the consumerist tendencies of those that have felt like they have missed out can be boorish and violent in comparision with those better off who may sometimes be able to better conceal the uglier expressions of the demons of our culture. We have struggled for a long time to work out how to give gifts at our Credo Christmas Gathering without it descending into a nasty, desperate, snatch and grab that communicates the opposite of what our efforts at hospitality intended.
It re-frame’s somewhat the echoing conclusion of Sinead/Jeremiah for me
“And in their want.
And in their want.
And in their want.
Who’ll dress their wounds.”
Toward a Seedy Advent Spirituality #3: Enough of Christmas or a Christmas of Enough!… On Gratitude and Giving (Part D) Gratitude Enough: On Whether To Give Your Child a Nintendo DS or a Stone