On several occasions I have persuaded George Lynch to tell his story about fellow students at Union Theological Seminary in Virginia kidnapping the baby Jesus from the manger of the Christmas crèche, holding him hostage until the food in the dining hall was improved.
As funny as this may be, it has occurred to me during this Advent season that many if not most of us have kidnapped Jesus for our own purposes, one who is particularly vulnerable at this time of year—an infant, a tabula rasa, in a season sentimentalized by memories, stories, films, fund raisers, and marketers.
This thought came to me as I switched back and forth between the enchanting boys’ choir Libera singing Christmas songs in Saint Patrick’s Cathedral in Northern Ireland and the pop singers belting out Christmas hits in New York’s Rockefeller Plaza in preparation for lighting its Christmas tree. When PBS gave its long pleas for pledges I switched to NBC; when NBC went to commercial or had a particularly raucous performer I switched back to PBS.
My temptation was to judge NBC’s loud celebration of Christmas, given my greater pleasure of the quieter and gentler voices of the boys’ choir, using the metaphor of kidnapping Jesus—but then I realized I would be equally guilty of abducting Jesus for my own agenda. After all, NBC’s style of Christmas observance would suit me and perhaps any of us in a different mood or context, and it was only a little more commercial than PBS’s use of its concert as a fundraising tool and Libera’s promotion of CDs and DVDs.
And here I’m using all of this as content for this post—though my blog is hardly “commercial,” given my rejection of ads on the site, and that donations for this year have totaled just $625 as we approach a total of 100,000 visits since this blog’s inception!
Whoops—did I just try to “kidnap” Jesus myself?!
Earlier that day, folding laundry, I listened to NPR. As I rolled my t-shirts, another segment in their series about where t-shirts come from made me think about where Jesus came from. The series has highlighted the market forces that have clothing manufacturers moving from region to region, from country to country, in search of the cheapest and most exploitable labor to make the very t-shirts I was folding. “The clothing industry follows poverty,” one expert explained.
It stunned me.
Regardless of the various agendas for which we have kidnapped Jesus, it’s pretty universally believed that he came from poverty, illiteracy, and obscurity. He would have been the perfect employee to satisfy our taste for cheap goods.
Thank God he was given a different vocation.
Be sure to catch next week’s post on Christmas day:
Post related to the recent Sound of Music live television production:
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