It started last winter. A wave of unrest that toppled governments in Tunisia and Egypt and (with a little more trouble and violence) Libya. The media christened it the Arab Spring and Western politicians and commentators were falling over themselves praising the movement to democratic ideals and civil rights that it seemed to represent (although how well those ideals and rights will be lived out is yet to be seen).
Then the phenomenon crossed into the Western democracies themselves. A group of people, disgusted with the way the current political and economic systems were operating, announced that they were going to Occupy Wall Street. This was their way of speaking out against the social inequality that is a reality in the Western world. This grassroots movement has since spread across the United States. And even up here in relatively law-abiding Canada parks in our major cities have been taken over by protestors in the same spirit. Their goals may be unclear, their methods may be controversial, the parks may be getting cleared out, but just as in Tunisia and Egypt it seems that an unstoppable force has been unleashed. Change is in the air. A new world is being born, these are just the first labour pangs.
Change is in the air. A new world is being born. Even without the Arab Spring and the Occupy movements I would be drawn to those sentences at this time of year. Because the Advent/Christmas story, indeed the whole of the Christian story is about the new world being born, the change that is in the air.
Any day now we can expect to hear, if we have not already heard, the opening salvos in the annual “War on Christmas”, the debate about what the mid-winter festival really means today. I invite us all to sit this one out, in a way. Personally I don't care if schoolchildren sing “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” or “Away in a Manger”. I don't care if the store clerk says Merry Christmas or Happy Holidays or Happy Hanukkah. The culture wars have grown tiresome – partly because those wars have lost sight of the true meaning of Christmas.
Christmas is about God breaking into our lives. Christmas is about us allowing ourselves to hear about and celebrate a world-changing event. For unto US is born in the City of David a Saviour...Glory to God in the Highest and on Earth Peace among those of good will.
As I see it, the basis of the Occupy movement is that those people are committed to their cause, so committed that they will camp in a park in sub-zero temperatures to help see it come to reality. They will stand up and occupy not only that park but a place in the public discourse, a place in the public worldview so that others may see the world differently. They want others to see a new possibility. And they refuse to leave until they know that they have been heard.
This year I invite us all to Occupy Christmas. Stand up and name that the world is being changed by the baby who is being born. Set up your tent in the public forum and share the vision of a world where simple things like peace and hope, love and joy guide our choices. Claim a space in the public discourse and refuse to go away until your voice is heard, until others share the vision of a just world laid out by the Prince of Peace. That is the way we proclaim the true power and possibility of Christmas
Change is in the air. A new world is being born. For unto US a child is born and unto US a son is given and his name shall be called Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, the Prince of Peace.
Thanks be to God. Amen.