MITRA: Remember the real reason for the season

By on December 4, 2017
Narayan Mitra is the pastor of Merritt Baptist Church.

 

Editor’s note: The views expressed in this column don’t necessarily reflect those of the Merritt Herald and its staff. The Herald welcomes qualified writers with views on this or other faiths to submit their work to newsroom@merrittherald.com, to be considered for publication.


The tug-of-war between Christmas and otherwise ‘holiday’ nomenclatures is on, as the first Sunday in Advent quietly ushered in last Sunday.

In our market-driven societies, Christmas advertisement flyers start hitting us just after Halloween. Allured by the media blitz, parents fantasize while children pester for all things new.

The retail stores play seasonal music and worry about their fourth-quarter earnings. The enticement to empty our wallets and to worship at the altar of materialism is hard to resist.

The first church official to propose special spiritual activities for the Christmas period was Perpetus, bishop of Tours, in 490 AD.

To help his flock prepare for the holiday, he advocated fasting every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday from Nov. 11 to Christmas Eve.

This practice, mirroring Lent, spread slowly throughout the Christian church.

In the Orthodox Church, Advent still includes fasting and, in most places, it lasts from Nov. 15 to Dec. 24.

Let Christmas 2017, too, be a time of reflection on our walk with Christ and with one another.

The world creates its own gods and expects others to worship them. We must resist the temptation of following the ways of the world.

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The faith equation

In this ever-changing world of science and technology, the god of market economy generates fanciful expectations which, when unmet, create a vacuum in our lives.

In human history, vacuums have always been filled whether for good or for bad.

The Communist revolution propelled dictatorial leaders Joseph Stalin and, later, Vladmir Lenin to power, and claimed to fill the vacuum of the masses with material prosperity and equality.

To achieve their goals, millions of people were put to death.

The equality they promised was well portrayed in George Orwell’s book Animal Farm wherein he wrote: “All animals are equal, but some are more equal than others.”

The rise of Nazism was startling. Our sensibilities are still traumatized by what Adolf Hitler did, putting millions of Jews to death.

But we must not forget the vacuum Hitler was aiming to fill.

Europe was living on glorious memories of the past. The Church was irrelevant. So Europe got Nazism which positioned itself as the rising tide of the future against the nostalgic waves of the past.

Europe and the world suffered.

In recent times, the persecution of Christians and other minorities is well documented.

The ideology of purity and pollution by mainline Hindus sees the low-caste Dalits as impure. Thousands of Rohingyas are fleeing from pillar to post in order to survive.

The Church is duty-bound to model equality, love, respect, and service to all.

The reign of terror unleashed world over by suicide bombers raises the pertinent question: why are young lives are willing to kill (and in the process be killed) innocent people?

They seem to be risking their lives for a utopian future. There is big vacuum in their lives. Sadly, they think that only destruction and death can fill it.

The utopian revolutions of the failed gods of Communism and Nazism, and the newer gods of Capitalism and consumerism are bound to fail as well.

History is replete with evidence that the gods of this world fail over and over. As Christ-followers, we should never allow the human failures of history to haunt us.  

Long ago, humanity declared its independence from God and has chased the whirlwinds of ideologies which are doomed to failure.

The biblical times were also brimming with Greek and Roman ideologies. But with the appearing of the Christ-child, the angels’ message came in the form of Peace on Earth.

God’s answer to humanity’s emptiness was a baby, indeed a priceless treasure in an earthen vessel.

The self-giving love of God was manifested in a Person, not in an ideology. The wise men were led by the star to a rustic manger and they were not disappointed.

They worshipped the King of kings and the Lord of lords.

Even today, the really wise can recognize the presence of God-Man in Jesus. They value human life, especially of the poor and the marginalized.

We are living amidst remarkable worldwide renewal and growth of the Church.  What is contributing to this renewal? Is it the information technology revolution?

Information is power. Information of the gospel of Jesus is the foundation for this onward movement of the Church.

But this is information with a difference for it is not just limited to words but rather the incarnation of the Word of God.

The gospel story of Christ of Christmas, in the midst of a society that yearns to overcome the awful loneliness, isolation, terrorism, makes it endurable by making it meaningful.

The gospel faith enables a person to live, but it also enables him to die in peace.

The good news of Jesus Christ has the power to make human potential productive under ever changing and challenging conditions.

The world which has suffered under deadly failed ideologies needs to hear the good news of the first Christmas event again and again and have encounters with the Reason for the Season.

 

Narayan Mitra is the Pastor of Merritt Baptist Church, 2499 Coutlee Avenue, Merritt. You can reach him at merrittbaptist@gmail.com.

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