This year is the third Christmas that I haven’t worked in food service and retail. I’m pleased to say that, as a result, I like Christmas again!
I even like Christmas music!!
Over the course of the Journey of Peace adventure, as I’ve begun paying more attention to things that happen in society, social justice has become more and more important to me. If you’ve been following the blog, you know by now that I look for ways that different people groups can have more enriching relationships. I look for ways we can help each other. I haven’t always been the most successful in communicating what I hope for, but I’ve been trying.
So what does social justice have to do with Christmas?
Well, this particular re-purposed pagan holiday has been claimed by Christians to commemorate the advent, or coming, of Christ. The Old Testament prophets spoke of a man, a king, a healer, a deliverer, a messiah. Someone who would bring peace to the world and save the people from their iniquity and lead us into a right relationship with God. The way we Christians believe, there was a great schism between people and God that no one could cross. We believe that no one was able to experience God uninhibited, the way we were meant to.
Not until Christ.
The babe in the manger. The lamb on the cross. The incarnation of God wearing Human flesh.
And we believe that the deepest need of people, the need of the soul, peace with God, was met when God became a Human in the person of Jesus Christ.
Social justice can and should be the direct result of the advent of Christ. If we Christians truly believe that God became Human and worked to unite people with God, how much more should we Humans work to be united and living in peace with other Humans? If we have been freed from the oppression of sin, how much more should we work to free others from oppression of all kinds? If there really are no more barriers between people and God, how much more should we work to eliminate the barriers between people groups so as to more effectively give the peace of God to each other?
I’m falling in love with Christmas music all over again, because I think the old hymn writers understood this social justice thing. When they wrote about Advent, they wrote about what Christ did for us. They also wrote about what we should do for each other.
For instance in the song, “The First Noel,” the news of Christ’s birth comes first to shepherds, dirty, smelly 99% shepherds, then to the Magi who were foreigners, affluent, scholars, possibly rulers, the 1%. These two demographics were given equal access to Christ.
And the song ends like this…
Then let us all in one accord sing praises to our heavenly Lord
That hath made heaven and earth of nought(nothing)
And with mankind his blood has bought.
Noel, Noel, Noel, Noel
The song “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day” addresses the despair one can feel when confronted by the corruption of the world…but also speaks of the hope of change that can happen now that Christ has come.
I heard the bells on Christmas Day
Their old familiar carols play
And wild and sweet the words repeat
of peace on earth good will to men
I thought how as the day has come
The belfries of all Christendom
Had rolled along the unbroken song
Of peace on earth good will to men
And in despair I bowed my head
“There is no peace on earth,” I said
“For hate is strong and mocks the song
of peace on earth good will to men.”
Then pealed the bells more loud and deep
“God is not dead nor does He sleep.
The wrong shall fail, the right prevail
with peace on earth good will to men.”
“God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen”….(okay okay so they hadn’t quite discovered gender-inclusive language back in the day…we’ve come a long way since then…but still….)
Now to the Lord sing praises
All you within this place
And with true love and brotherhood
Each other now embrace.
This holy tide of Christmas
All other doth deface
O tidings of comfort and joy, comfort and joy
O tidings of comfort and joy.
Brothers and sisters, may we embrace each other in love, all of us now being equal before God!
“O Come O Come Emmanuel” ends with this verse…
O come desire of nations bind
In one the hearts of all mankind
Bid Thou our sad divisions cease
And be Thyself our King of Kings
Rejoice, Rejoice! Emmanuel shall come to you oh Israel!
And my favorite, “O Holy Night.” Let us love as we have been loved. Let us praise our God for the way He has given us His love!
Truly He taught us to love one another
His law is love and His gospel is peace
Chains shall He break for the slave is our brother
And in His name, all oppression shall cease
Sweet hymns of joy
In grateful chorus raise we
Let all within us praise His holy name!
Christ is the Lord!
O praise His name forever!
His power and glory evermore proclaim!
His power and glory evermore proclaim!