I was heartened to read the words of colleague Rev. Robin Bartlett about the war on Christmas. Her children’s school canceled some holiday events like the elf on a shelf and Santa Claus’ visit. She wrote a Facebook post in response that went viral and got her on the news. She said there isn’t a war on Christmas, but there is a war on Christ when we fail to welcome our neighbor, call each other names, and withhold charity from those in need.
She called us to our better selves while also calling us to go to a church that preaches a deep and serious advent.
I grew up Christian – Episcopalian, specifically – so the need to have a serious advent piqued my interest. When the world is turning colder and the nights longer, do we need to focus on the plight of an Arabian Jewish refugee family persecuted by a king? Do we need to feel bad about a pregnant woman not finding room at the inn and having to give birth in a lowly manger? What purpose does that serve?
And then this whole week, the Syrian people in Eastern Aleppo have been tweeting out their last words, as Assad’s Russian, Iranian, and Saudia Arabian backed forces commit massacre after massacre. The white helmets, a humanitarian group that arose during the long civil war in Syria, wrote about corpses piling up in the street. Videos air of parents clutching their children who were killed by Russian bombs.
On the cover of the New York Times is a photo of a family from Aleppo. A woman walks along side a man, who is holding up an IV drip that goes inside a swaddle of blankets. There is the real holy family. No star, no kings, no manger, no songs, just the persecution of the innocent.
A deep and serious advent helps us navigate the tragedies of our lives. Christianity canonized a sad story to remind us we should oppose persecution and welcome the refugee and stranger in our midst because they are the ones who bear the light of the world we all need to get out of this mess. It mirrors the growing seasonal darkness of the year that pagans knew was difficult to survive, and their celebrations of light which calls us to turn to one another to survive.
If we celebrate the child and forget why the child was worth celebrating, forget the circumstances he was born into, then we forget what this holiday is all about and forget what to do in the face of unnecessary suffering. It is upon us now to talk with legislators about welcoming refugees into the United States, to give humanitarian aid to groups like the White Helmets, and always be ready to give to the family who deserves so much better.