I read part of Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove's intro from Jamie Arpin-Ricci's book, The Cost Of Community in our Sunday service to prepare us for the beginning of Advent next Sunday:
In Canada, the day after Christmas is Boxing Day. I’ve read that it’s the largest retail spending day of the year up there (akin to America’s Black Friday, which follows our Thanksgiving feast). Inheritors of the largest economy to ever exist on earth, we North Americans celebrate our holidays on both sides of the border with great demonstrations of abundance—and we come down from our consumption by . . . shopping. If there is any single temptation that North Americans share, it’s the persistent call of One More Thing.
But for Christians, the day after Christmas is a day to remember Stephen the Martyr. Our great celebration of Jesus coming to dwell among us is followed by a solemn reminder of what Jesus actually said about following him—that it leads to a cross in this world. Incarnation is good news not because it offers us a way out of the mess of this world, but because it shows us what God’s love looks like here and now. Jesus’ birth is followed by his death and resurrection, just as the birth of the church is followed by the witness of those who are willing to lay down their lives for the sake of the gospel. And so the good news spreads.
When we pay attention to the peculiar memory of the church, we hear the echoes of a quiet revolution—the gentle insistence that the way things are is not the way things have to be. Another world is possible; indeed, another world has already begun. We can be part of it now, but it costs nothing less than everything.
That Jesus took on human flesh and moved into the neighborhood means we have seen the way of love lived out. We know what it looks like. In first-century Palestine, it meant that Jesus went to Golgotha. It looked like Stephen praying for his enemies while they threw the stones that would kill him.
But what does it look like to live God’s love in our world today?
What if you’re not a wandering preacher from Galilee, living under Roman occupation?
What if your greatest temptation is the alluring call of One More Thing on the day after you’ve eaten ham and opened presents?
CHRISTMAS CAN (STILL) CHANGE THE WORLD.