Mid-Advent, if you were to peep my church office, you’d find a disheveled scene. Fifteen hand soaps in an opened box on my desk, a manger full off socks waiting to go to Family Resources, and a displaced baby Jesus doll resting on an office chair.
Today, you’ll look at your calendar and discover that it’s “Boxing Day.” With its traditions stemming from the aristocratic societies in the United Kingdom, Boxing Day is a day to present a Christmas Box to those less fortunate – tradespeople, servants – usually filled with cash, durable goods, maybe some leftovers from the Christmas dinner. For many of these folks, their services were needed on Christmas Day, so their day of celebration would have to wait until the 26th.
Throw into this mixture a recent Fresh Air interview I heard with Adam Minter. Minter grew up in the “junk” business and his growing fascination with where donated items end up led him to relocate to China and then Malaysia, as well as begin chronicling our relationship with stuff in his two books Junkyard Planet and Secondhand.
Minter’s reflections have been humbling for me because our North American economy is such that we rely on a lot of highly disposable commodities in our daily lives. We don’t view our belongings so much as “merchandise,” like our grandparents’ generation did, but we sure own a lot of stuff.
I don’t have to remind you that Christmas has become a holiday overrun with obscene consumption. It’s a tired argument. You know it, I know it, and still we set ourselves out to buy things – things we might throw away, things we may never use. So with the backdrop of Boxing Day and Adam Minter’s reports on our discarded Christmas lights (harvested for copper in rural China, by the way) I can’t help but think of the original story of Christmas – Jesus born to two poor parents, far from home, in a stranger’s borrowed barn – as a story of repurposed wonder; like the Christmas ham bestowed with a ribbon to the farmhand, or the long-emptied jar of pasta sauce that now gets used and reused over and over again in Bangladesh.
The scary thing about this repurposed wonder is that the farther we get from simple living, the less likely this gift is for us. The “Christmas Box” containing the incarnation of God himself is one to be received by those who are “poor in spirit;” and to embrace that kind of poverty we have to declutter our own souls, our consciousness, to see this dire need we have to be pardoned our sins; to receive God’s love once more.
Eventually, I too will clear my piles. But inwardly, I also hope to find a little bit space to contemplate my own “poverty;” the corners of my life where I need Jesus to be gifted to me once again.
-Kendra Thompson, pastor of children and family life