Imagine a Christmas Gift for the Whole World

Posted: December 12, 2013 in Things of Faith
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Christmas Celebration in Nazareth 2012

In his little book, Source of Life, Jürgen Moltmann includes a chapter entitled “There Is Enough for Everyone.” Essentially it is a meditation on the “original Christian Communism” found in Acts 4. I have read this little book several times and each time I come to this chapter the title brings me to a halt. “There is enough for everyone.” Really? Is there enough? Moltmann asks this very question. In light of the Acts passage we get a glimpse of people sharing from their substance. As I have stated in previous posts, I had the privilege of serving on the Mission and Ministry board for the Church of the Brethren. It was here that I was introduced to the saying, “we live simply, so that others can simply live.” And while I love this saying, it doesn’t really get at what Acts 4 is saying.

For Christians living in a society that casts the dream of ownership as an ideal—“American Dream”—this comes as a particularly difficult pill to swallow. Examples of the extremity of this value include people who have killed others to “protect” their property. We are taught from a young age that purchasing and owning are vital to the American way. Unfortunately Christians are not exempt from the trappings of this aspect of consumerism. If this is not enough, we have become the proverbial horse eating itself to death. We are consuming ourselves into extinction. We have created a voracious appetite which seems impossible to quell. This would be a problem in itself if it were only self-imposed upon our population. However, as we are quickly learning, we are part of a global society. What used to be worlds away now resides in our backyard. The abuse we impose in the northwestern quadrasphere (I’m not sure what the correct term for this region of the planet is, so I thought I’d make one up) of this planet in the name of consumerism has real effects upon the population on the other side of the world (literally in our backyard).

Personally, I think Christians (as well as people in general) get this more than they let on. When we get to the holidays we begin to witness encouraging acts of generosity which does not seem to exist at other times of the year. In fact it sometimes feels as if we act this way out of some form of guilt for our failures to live this way every day. The problem for Christians is that every day is a “holy-day.” While Brethren have embraced the saying I quoted above (“We live simply, so others can simply live”), it really doesn’t go as far as the first Christians went in their lifestyle. Actually if we look closely at the quality of life which Luke describes in that early community, what we discover is a group of people living the very salvation Jesus promises—abundant life. In our culture today any suggestion of living life in ways that is reflective of this is met with threatening glares or accusations of “communism” (you might think we were still living in the 1950’s) or with being categorized with such labels as “liberal, idealistic, etc.” However, doesn’t the life described their reflective of the prophetic visions of Isaiah? Aren’t they foreshadowing what is promised in Revelation 21? In my mind (perhaps I’m a bit off) this early Christian community exemplifies one into which God’s shalom and kingdom are breaking.

As experience the waiting and watching of Advent, perhaps the contemporary church residing in the northwest quadrasphere should consider how living out its faith in such a way would affect the other three quarters of the planet. Just maybe we have got the “simple living” wrong. What if simple living is living the abundant life in the way the first Christians did? What if our Christian community’s culture was founded on the very grace of sharing that these first Christians practiced? I wonder if the kingdom Jesus announced would be more evident in our midst as the powers and principalities of consumerism, capitalism, greed, and ownership are conquered (even as I write this I find within myself an overwhelming compulsion to grasp tightly to that which I have). Imagine the gift this would be to the world into which Jesus, the son of God entered?

  1. Mark Bowyer says:

    Well said, Andy!

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