Friday, December 15, 2006

Meaning of Xmas

I was going to get a haircut this morning, waiting for the bus and another bus rolled by with the driver dressed as Santa Claus (hat, beard, red suit, the works). It was very heart warming and cutesy.

But for me it brings up the difficulties I always have at this time of the year--that Christmas is for a religious holiday/observance, including Advent the preparatory liturgical season we are currently in (nearly as important).

It made me think of St. Nicholas--the actual St. Nicholas that is. Story here. And how he has been whitewashed and commercialized, co-opted by the status quo of our sinful world.

Nicholas was a bishop in modern-day Turkey in the 3rd/4th centuries, right around the time Christianity was going from being illegal to legal in the Roman Empire.

Nicholas was not just some cheery nice old grandfather figure. He was unhinged in a very real way.

One of the stories, which gets whitewashed as a pious act of a saint, is that a father had three daughters who was too poor for dowries for them. Hence they were off the marriage market. And by extension they would be forced into what today we correctly call sexual slavery.

Nicholas, as the legend goes, secretly stashed money in the man's house for the women. But if we really thought about what he was after, he is talking about real social change. Peel away all the pious overlay, and get to a man who criticized slavey and the control of women.

Just so that we don't think this is some problem only in Thailand or somewhere in Asia, just this week in Vancouver, a series of massage parlors (aka brothels) were raided were the girls--and they were girls--had been bought and sold and enslaved as sex objects. In Vancouver. The first world. Rich people, a port town, just like Nicholas' own hometown of Myra.

Another story tells of him saving a child from being enslaved by local raiders. Again, human slavery still exists in our world. Think Child soldiers in Uganda.

Not some, however, well meaning jolly out fat guy at the local mall.

Christianity is an insane religion. Christmas is meant to blow our minds and overthrow social conformity, not just in some wild free for all as in the pagan festival of Saturnalia which Christmas replaced, but overthrowing the structures of power for a world of justice. A world of hope.

Not a cute shopping season.


At 9:18 AM, Blogger MD said...

thanks for the link to the St. Nick story.

You write:...overthrowing the structures of power for a world of justice.

All power? Certain kinds of power? What?

At 9:37 AM, Blogger CJ Smith said...

the unjust ones.

but in a wider sense the creation of a truly just social world. not through the creation of some socialistic utopian dream--those always end in gulags.

Rather through true love. Til then the best we have our lesser of mulitiple evils, as far as I'm concerned (my Augustinianism talking).


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