Faith Coloured Glasses looks at everyday experience through the eyes of faith. In daily life we encounter the presence and activity of God. Topics include personal spirituality, comments on current events, and seasonal articles.
It was hard not to be tuned into
the possibility that Kate might be pregnant.The tabloids had been speculating for weeks.The speculation came to an end when the Duchess of Cambridge required
medical attention for acute morning sickness. At that point, Prince William’s
office had little choice but to announce the pregnancy, even though the royal
couple may have preferred to keep the news to themselves.
Reaction to the announcement came
quickly as people tweeted their congratulations, which ranged from the
predictable to the euphoric. The more euphoric statements
described the pregnancy as a “global phenomenon” and as the “good news that everyone
has been waiting for.” There were
predictions for the future: “this baby will secure the future of the monarchy
for decades” and “this baby will be the most famous child in modern
history.”There were expectations
of universal joy: “this baby will bring joy to many around the world.”
Thinking of a long ago pregnancy
This highly public pregnancy and
the reaction to it make me think of another pregnancy. It was a pregnancy that
did not generate widespread excitement, although it had certain notoriety. A young Jewish girl had returned
from a visit to her cousin and she was obviously pregnant. The news
spread quickly. The rumor mill was working overtime. Instead of congratulations, there was innuendo and criticism.
While he felt betrayed, her betrothed kept his cards close to
his heart as he pondered his next step. Like everyone else in the village, he
wondered how this could have happened. Who was the father?
While people were quick to condemn her, they wondered about the sanity of her betrothed. If he were
not the father, then he was a fool, treating her with an honor she did not
deserve.The women shunned her and
the men were preparing to stone her.
This may have been the reaction
that Mary and Joseph faced in their little town, where it was impossible to
keep Mary’s pregnancy a secret. While people in the surrounding villages were
talking about it, none were offering euphoric congratulations. In their view, this
was a shameful pregnancy; it was definitely not good news. No one was waiting
for this baby to secure the future of a nation. No one expected this baby to be
a global phenomenon.
The people were wrong. This baby
was good news and he would influence the lives of many. This baby, Jesus of
Nazareth, was sacred; he was the expression of the presence of God among us.
Recognizing the sacred in our midst
That long ago pregnancy teaches
us something about recognizing the sacred in our midst. The sacred manifests
itself to us in subtle ways. Like a woman who has yet to discover that she is
pregnant, we may be unaware that we carry the sacred within our being. Like the
critics of Mary and Joseph, we may be unaware that the sacred is about to enter
into our experience. We are not tuned in.
"Madonna with Child" Francisco de Zubaran 1658
In the birth of the Christ child,
we have a beautiful image of the sacred as immanent and as
transcendent. In Mary’s tender caress of her newborn son as he nurses at her breast, we have an image of the soul responding to the
gentle touch of God’s presence.
In the tiny and dependent Christ
child, we sense that the sacred is vulnerable and susceptible to neglect. We
begin to understand that just as parents care lovingly for their child, we must
nurture what is sacred within our self. Then, we are better able to recognize
and respond to the sacred in others and in creation.
In the report of angelic choirs
appearing in the night sky to announce the birth of this child, and in the
legends of animals kneeling before this baby in a manger, we find a metaphor
for the presence of the sacred in the world around us.
Becoming pregnant with the possibility of transformation
While nurturing a sense of the
sacred in a secular world may seem like foolishness, it is a trusting response
to God’s invitation. God asks us to become pregnant with the
possibility of our own transformation.As an unborn baby slowly develops in the silence and darkness of the
womb, our inner transformation occurs invisible to the eye, until, little by
little, we give birth to the love and the joy manifested in that first
Christmas, when a young Jewish mother wrapped her babe in swaddling clothes and
laid him in a manger.
It’s that time of year when
everyone is asking the question that makes even the most organized woman feel
frazzled. “Are you ready for Christmas?” I am definitely not ready for
Christmas, either materially or spiritually.
When my children were young, I
had deadlines for my Christmas preparations so that I would be ready. I rushed around as if the coming of
Christmas depended solely on my ability to get things done.
Over the years, I have scaled
back. I bake less and I buy less. While many people I know have also scaled
back on the purchasing of gifts, Christmas shopping remains a national
Black Friday is like a military operation
The madness begins on Black
Friday. This year Black Friday dominated the media. It was as newsworthy as the
possibility of war between Israel and Palestine, civil strife in Syria, and the
fiscal cliff in the United States. It could be that Black Friday is worthy of
all this media attention. After all, shopping on Black Friday has its war like
elements as consumers fight to get the best deals and, as they repeatedly swipe
their credit cards, consumers create their personal version of a financial
According to market researchers, the
annual Black Friday shopping ritual is comparable to a military mission. One
researcher noted that people plan their shopping mission weeks in advance, devising
strategies to increase their chances of successfully obtaining the best deals.
Not everyone is impressed with
Black Friday. Twenty-two years ago in
Vancouver, Kalle Lasn of Ad Busters came up with the idea of “Buy Nothing Day”.Lasn thought it was time to counter the
blatant consumerism of Black Friday. He wanted to encourage discussion on the
dark side of consumerism. The dark side of consumerism is the stress it places
on the planet and the psychological consequences of the message that
consumption equals happiness.
The Christmas season has become a
time of excessive consumption. The excesses of the season, whether it’s credit
card debt from overspending, an expanded waistline from overeating, or multiple
hangovers from over imbibing, leave many people feeling less than satisfied
when the New Year arrives.
Christmas creates a widespread feeling of goodwill
Celebrating, and the giving and
receiving of gifts play an important role in Christmas. They help to define the festive season,
demarcating Christmas from the rest of the year. Christmas is the only holiday
I can think of that creates such a widespread feeling of goodwill.The spirit of Christmas
inspires gladness, generosity, and greater civility among people.
When I think about the
consumerism of Christmas, the words of the prophet Isaiah come to mind.Isaiah uses the metaphor of a banquet
to describe God’s invitation to live a fuller, more satisfying life. Why, God
asks, do you waste your money on things that cannot feed your soul? Why do you
work for things that give you no satisfaction?
The Christmas shopping season
coincides with the liturgical season of Advent.Advent is a time of spiritual preparation when Christians
prepare to welcome ‘God-with-us’ in the birth of the Christ child. Advent is an appropriate time
to counter bargain hunting with some soul searching.
Photo: Louise McEwan
I have learned to buy less and do less so that I can give more
Years ago, when the number of
tasks I wanted to complete before Christmas began to overwhelm me, I had an
insight. It was so obvious, yet it was something I had consistently overlooked.
Christmas day would come and go, regardless of the state of my preparations.
Christmas day did not depend on specialty baking, or a pile of gifts under a
beautifully decorated tree. The beauty of our Christmas depended on the love in
our hearts and in our home.The
thing that mattered most was my ability to be present to my family, my friends,
and my God. Although I still search for the perfect gifts, I have learned to
buy less and do less so that I can give more.
In a curious twist, Christmas
leads us towards another Friday: one that is a counterpoint to Black Friday.
While Black Friday’s all consuming focus is about filling up our lives with
stuff, this Friday has a different focus. In the birth of the Christ child,
Christmas points to Good Friday. Good Friday encourages us to become empty, so
that we may live in the lightness of heart that characterizes the Christmas
spirit. Christmas is the beginning of God’s strategic operation for us.