A myth can be a fable or even a lie. And a myth can also be a story or history with religious truth.
As we seek to find the “meaning of Christmas”, we must be clear. Two Christmases exist; each with its own meaning myth.
So, it is important to clarify which Christmas we are celebrating.
In a well-documented 24-hour span a large number of Americans went from expressing their gratitude and bragging about their (over-)consumption of food to waiting in line to snag the deals that will help make room on the shelves for the next of newest and greatest consumerist gods.
While some eat and merrily drink, many others are feeling starved for justice. This Thanksgiving, the CDC estimates that 32,105 will be absent from the Christmas dinner table due to gun-related deaths and in painful contrast, shooter-impersonation video games Far Cry, Assasin’s Creed, Halo, and Call of Duty sold a combined 2,062,760 units THIS WEEK ALONE.
Walmart is discounting their gun selection 20% as a part of their Black Friday sales. Meanwhile, minority communities and those that are alarmed by the lack of justice surrounding the deaths of Michael Brown, Eric Garner, John Crawford and so many more unarmed citizens are given plenty of reason to reconsider Black Friday and exactly it might mean of being a black citizen under less-than-equal protection of the law.
Because it is.
In Dell deChant’s book, The Sacred Santa, deChant points out that American consumerism has become its own religion, complete with sacred myths, rituals, and holidays – none bigger than Christmas. Santa Clause and Jesus Christ are not competing demi-Gods despite what Fox News says, instead they are manifestations of two different religions.
This Advent, America is preparing for two different Christmases. As Christians, we shouldn’t waste our time worrying about which phrase store clerks use to greet their customers and much more energy being conscious of which Advent narrative we are allowing to drive our lives this Christmas season.
Because one narrative will dominate the headlines and saturate our screens while another has the power to speak to the embittered, the infuriated, and those that are desperately seeking, waiting, and working for hope.
Today, in churches around the world, Christians celebrate Hope Sunday and for those that are waiting for justice, peace, and joy, Hope Sunday comes right on time.
Hope Sunday marks the beginning of a narrative that reminds us that God’s movement that changed the world happened in the dark of night. Hope Sunday marks a journey where God was present not just to the Wise Men and the wealthy but to the poor, the jobless, the undocumented, and the marginalized. Hope Sunday reminds us that when humanity was stumbling and grasping for light, God reached out to humankind in the form of a tiny infant.
While a Black Friday boycott organized in response to the grand jury’s decision to not indict Darren Wilson is reported to have led to an 11% drop in post-Thanksgiving spending, it is also reported that more people shopped on Black Friday than voted in the midterm elections.
This suggests to me that the myth of consumerism is more believable than the Myth that begins the Christian narrative.
But we have the power to influence and perpetuate the truth of whatever Christmas we choose to celebrate. It is time to boldly claim the Christmas that brought power into the margins, light into the darkness, and hope to the abandoned.
Because never before have we so desperately needed the power of Christmas.
And never before have we so desperately needed hope.