“Most men lead lives of quiet desperation and go to the grave with the song still in them” – Henry David Thoreau
Let it be said that Christmas is my least favorite time of the year, not because I dislike the day but solely because I loathe that it has become this commercialized façade of selling out to traditions and disengaging with the truth. Advertising has tainted our realities so this day becomes a time that revolves around Christmas trees and gifts. I love lights, and gifts and the music that accompanies this season, don’t be fooled. I also deeply despise the accusation this season places on the hearts of humanity. Living in a community where poverty is so rife it breaks my heart to see the anguish of hearts wanting to buy into this day at the expense of their lively hoods. See, it is this western commercialization that teaches humanity that their worth is found in what they have.
Silently hearts are dying because they lack the tangible, wasting away in the secret of their souls because they have not enough to make this season be as sparkly as the rest of us. Fathers anguished by their inability to lavish their children with gifts, mothers feeling torn by the state of their homes and children roaming through life disassociated from reality because the pain of self worth is too much to bare. It is this stench that lingers into the New Year, and into the core of men. Truth evades us and accusations become the mark on our being. I dare you to walk the streets of the Cape Flats and see this reality upon the faces of children…no joy is to be found, only utter desperation.
Upon speaking to my 3-year-old nephew (whom I dearly love and adore), this reality dawned upon me. I asked the simple question: ‘Do you know why we celebrate Christmas?’ and he pretty much said with confidence, that it was about presents and lights. To which I responded and blew his little brain when I told him about a baby boy Jesus. My own family has become so wrapped up in this season that they had forgotten the truth. I come from a ‘Christian’ home…how is this possible? This is how; we as the church have become so quiet and tolerant in the aim to not offend. Yet, this tradition has been founded in the basis of Christ and as much as we want to change in the name of tolerance, this is truth. Even as the day fades and the years pass, this will still be truth. The thing that breaks me most is that this story will fade away from the lips of humanity, and eventually fade away from our hearts too.
As I was editing some images, I paused upon an image of a little boy that is probably burned into my memory at this point (It is the image used in this blog). I kept wondering why this image haunted me and why this image is so beautiful, yet so scarring. While pondering this thought it dawned upon me that Jesus was birthed into this kind of poverty, he probably looked like this dirty boy and every other dirty boy knocking on my door looking for a meal. It is in the face of a poor child that he made his appearance. It is in the image of a disregard that he was physically seen, because every man on this earth can become that kind of individual. Poverty is attainable.
For He shall grow up before Him as a tender plant,
And as a root out of dry ground.
He has no form or comeliness;
And when we see Him,
There is no beauty that we should desire Him.
He is despised and rejected by men,
A Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief.
And we hid, as it were, our faces from Him;
He was despised and we did not esteem Him. – Isaiah 53:2-3
For unto us a Child is born,
Unto us a Son is given;
And the government will be upon His shoulder.
And his name will be called
Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Of the increase of His Government and peace
There will be no end – Isaiah 9:6-7
It is this two-fold truth we forget in this season. There is beauty in abundance when it does not consume us from the inside out. I love Christmas and all it has to offer in the physical. Yet my heart needs to engage with where it truly is. If I removed the gifts, the bells and whistles…would I still hold onto truth? Humanity is in deep need of truth, poverty and lack does not define us. We need not spend our all in the name of Christmas Day. We need not feel the burden of shame and loneliness. Christ was birthed so that we could see firsthand that we have this two-fold truth in him.
- Life is hard and poverty is a reality. We share in his suffering for this time perhaps, yet we are not defined by our struggle in life.
- We have a life of joy in him. One that is removed from temporary happiness this season brings. We have comfort and peace when we find him in the truth of his being and nature.
Blessed are the poor in spirit,
For theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn,
For they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek,
For they shall inherit the earth – Matthew 5:3-5
This day needs to remain the fragrance of a child born into poverty overcoming the stench of being left an orphan, fending for oneself in a broken world. Jesus was born as a physical sign of the Father’s heart for humanity and his desire to be known. So as we commemorate this day as a symbol of Jesus, I pray my heart will stop for a moment and engage with the truth behind all the fuss. Enjoying the lights, the fun and the beauty of this season is wonderful…yet I want to engage my soul with truth. I pray that humanity will truly remember the child Jesus who grew up in poverty and lived a simple life so that others may know he is accessible and deeply in love with a broken world. Tis the season to break my heart and see the truth of a broken man who became an eternal King.
And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent – John 17:3