Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of December 17, 2001
Whose birthday is it, anyway?
By BISHOP FRED HENRY
At the conclusion of the recent dedication and opening of the Mustard Seed's Street Ministry Creative Centre, as we were heading for a tour of the new facility, a fellow-attendee remarked: "Isn't it nice to attend something where you can freely talk about Jesus Christ and not worry about whether it's politically correct to do so."
In the aftermath of the new inane National Defence prayer guide for military chaplains forbidding any identifiably Christian references during public ceremonies, such as memorial services, I wholeheartedly agree.
The expression "politically correct" has become a staple in our vocabularies. It has even graduated to the level of a familiar abbreviation. There are few who do not know the meaning of "PC."
One is politically correct, we understand, when one agrees with the "important" newspapers, the quoted "professors," the "best" commentators, the "most-influential" personalities.
Nor can there be any doubt that this understanding is operating with remarkable efficiency. From Newfoundland to British Columbia, the vast majority of adult Canadians are able to identify with extraordinary ease and accuracy those ideas, positions and thoughts which are today in our land "correct" or, if you prefer, "approved."
In the religious realm this usually means everything to its lowest common denominator so as not to offend, but unfortunately, in trying not to offend anyone, we end up offending just about everyone.
Jesus Christ is not politically correct. He never was. But now in the interests of so-called "tolerance" and inclusion, we have found it necessary to exclude any mention of or reference to him.
Apparently, the usage of the word "Christmas" is also not politically correct; Xmas is better. You aren't supposed to wish anyone "Merry Christmas" but rather "Happy Holidays" or "Season's Greetings." Instead of a Christmas tree, we now have, believe it or not, a "multicultural tree."
"Christmas lights" has been shorted to "festive lights." "Christmas" (sorry about that reference) cards mustn't contain religious symbols but must be neutral. A rich profusion of colours and images of doves, snow covered cottages, scenes of rural tranquility, sleighs, bells, reindeer, Santa Clauses, grinchs, etc. is approved.
Christmas carols such as O Come, All Ye Faithful, Silent Night, While Shepherds Watched, and Away in a Manger are out. Weather songs, such as Winter Wonderland, Frosty the Snowman, White Christmas and Susy Snowflake are in.
All of which reminds me of the story of the land of puzzling tales.
In the land of puzzling tales there lived an eight-year-old boy named Jason. Now in this land and in the neighbourhood where Jason lived, the unexpected always happened.
Instead of football, they played knee ball; instead of children going to school, the teachers went to homes. In the summer time, it was not uncommon to see the water freeze, in the wintertime, leaves grew on the trees. It was a strange place.
One incident in the land of puzzling tales stands out - Jason's ninth birthday. As usual, the unusual happened. Jason's grandparents came from their home across the province to help celebrate. When they got to Jason's neighbourhood, they went to the Brown's house down the street and stayed there.
When Jason's mother baked a birthday cake, she gave it to the letter carrier to eat.
When the neighbourhood kids heard it was Jason's birthday, they exchanged gifts with one another and, of course, Jason got none.
There was a blizzard of birthday cards. The post office had to hire extra workers to handle the deluge of cards. Of course, in the land of puzzling tales the expected was unexpected, and all the kids, the moms and dads, the grandparents, and even a couple of dogs and a parakeet got cards, while poor Jason got none.
Finally, about nine o'clock that night, in a fit of frustration and anger, Jason went out and borrowed the school cheerleader's megaphone, rode up and down the street on his unicycle and shouted at the top of his lungs, "Whose birthday is it, anyway?"
The night was so silent that the echoes bounced for hours off the mountainsides: "Whose birthday is it, anyway?"
It's Jesus' birthday. However, much of the flurry of activity at this time of the year seems as puzzling as what transpires in the story about Jason because of its disconnection with the reason for celebration. So we remind ourselves "Keep Christ in Christmas," "Jesus is the reason for the season."
The drama of Jesus' birth reminds us that the elite and powerful, those who benefitted most from keeping the status quo, were the least open to the breaking of the kingdom, to new insights, to solutions to the injustices and the heartbreaks of the world.
Who caught on to the whole thing in the beginning? Some poor shepherds from the hills around Bethlehem, a few wise men, an old pious Jewish couple who longed for Israel's salvation. And now, maybe even us.
Through the wonder and mystery of the Incarnation, the Word did not become a philosophy, a theory, or a concept to be discussed, debated, interpreted but a person to be followed, enjoyed and loved.