I need Jesus to be born again
First Advent Reflection
As this Advent season begins I wait for the Christ child to be born again. I once knew a baby Jesus who grew to bring consolation and hope. But as the years have come and gone, my sense of Jesus the Saviour has faded. Because of the sins of patriarchy, triumphalism and colonialism, I’ve landed in a worldview that doesn’t allow saviours, especially Christian ones.
Alas, my vision is increasingly disenchanted; it’s become more practical and more complicated. Yes, I want to alleviate the suffering of others (could this be a mini-saviour complex?), but as I learn about my place in the world this aim becomes difficult to embrace.
As a child, my favourite role in the Sunday school Christmas play was that of the shepherd. I wanted to fit in, cause little fanfare. Now I see my place in our real-life drama. I’m no longer in the fields watching for a brighter star. I’m now on Herod’s side; a reluctant benefactor of an empire that exploits shepherds in retail fields and peasants in far-away lands. Sheesh, that’s heavy.
Frankly, as I get further and further away from my evangelical Christian roots, Christmas gets more and more spiritually dry. I am embarrassed to admit I feel little warmth of friendship or family when I hear the name “Jesus.” He is not near. He is only a distant, even theoretical, guide. He’s less a Saviour of the world and more a bauble on a tree or the star of a decorative scene on the mantle.
It’s fitting that Advent for me has become a time of waiting. As I look out, I see more struggles in the world – indigenous relations, “resource extraction,” violence against women, ongoing war, strife over land, hostility between religions. Amid the darkness I barely see flickers of light.
Light and darkness
In our city, for example, I see both light and darkness. In positive ways we have new cycling infrastructure, some housing for those in need of financial and physical assistance. But these are overshadowed by more negative ways: bigger shopping malls, more efficient dumping sites, smoother roads and more parking lots, large suburban homes which broadcast uniformity and compliance with the status quo (such as capitalist and colonialist notions of growth). A grey veil of oppression obscures my sight.
Where is the Jesus who is praised in pulpits and who animates songs of cheer? I don’t know. I need him to come. Or maybe I don’t, given our past record of abuses. But I do need to see and feel the hope of some kind of saviour.
I would welcome a Christ child, if I could recognize it as a child of hope. Please, send us a sign. I don’t even know to whom I address this plea. Am I asking God? No, not if that refers to the Father of a Son of God who sanctions Christians to make war in the name of peace.
Yet I yearn. I still have hope for something; it is a nebulous hope. It is in the disarming smile of a Desmond Tutu as he reassured his fellow black Africans in their pre-apartheid struggle. It is in the locked elbows of women crumpling to the ground as they resisted arrest last month in their civil disobedience on Burnaby mountain and made a statement of dissent against governments and corporations planning to strip and ship more oil away from the land.
In this season of Advent I am waiting for a saviour. A humble one who can inspire enough goodwill in us to transform our our fear and fill us with a love that opens our homes, our hearts, our domestic policies. I await a saviour who can transform our way of seeing so that as we encounter the Stranger — that is, when we encounter the one whose religion, race, class, or gender identity is not our own — may we see a common humanity and respond with hospitality and even celebration.
I am waiting. Let the flame on the Advent candles signal my determination to keep looking for the light that has presumably come into this world. I wait for the light.
Aiden Enns is the editor of Geez magazine, a quarterly print magazine about contemplative cultural resistance (see geezmagazine.org). He holds graduate degrees in religion and journalism and is a former regional editor of Canadian Mennonite and managing editor of Adbusters He is also an organizer with Buy Nothing Christmas.
1. Bleak – I see ruin and deception; God is not near. Read it here
2. Dim – In darkness, we strive to see; this brings hope. Read it here.
3. Light – There are rumours that socio-political liberation can break open. Read it here.
4. Bright – We squint as we approach the epicentre of newness.
5. Christmas – We receive both less and more than expected.