Creating alternative baubles
Each year in early December my three sons and I decorate our Christmas tree. Amongst the shiny baubles are ones they have made at school. They are usually made from foam balls with glitter or sequins stuck on them. Though not as shiny, they are more beautiful to me because my dearly loved sons made them for us and this makes them more exquisite than the professionally, mass-produced ones.
Reflecting on these baubles reminded me of how Australians can create what seems like their own shiny bubbles in their lives. It feels sometimes like many of us are hard at work, attempting to create these perfect spheres that will protect us from the dangerous world out there. We work to accumulate wealth, comforts, possessions, education for our children and insurances that we will live a pain-free life - so we can retire and enjoy it all before we die.
Sometimes news of famines, wars and other atrocities puncture holes in these baubles - and when Australians are able to, we will give money out of our abundance, but will quickly retreat into our baubles and resume the work of strengthening the fortress of security around ourselves. The side effects are loneliness, isolation and anxiety on ourselves and suffering to others, to the poor, refugees and to the planet. We don’t seem to know where we are going or why we are going there, but wherever we are going, we are going there real fast; ‘we are lost but we are making great time’. 1
As Christians we believe that we find our identity in a loving relationship with the everlasting God. Our hearts are set on thing that are eternal; on things that will live on after we are dead; like love, peace and creating foretastes or previews of heaven on earth. We can live open-handed, without fear or anxiety because our lives are the hands of a good, loving and generous God who will meet our needs.
However, like my sons’ lovingly made decorations, we can also create baubles that are life-giving and precious - an alternative to the perfectly round and shiny shop-bought creations. A space within myself where I remember that I am perfectly loved and forgiven. A space where I recall, in spite of my brokenness, I am of perfect worth to God. I want to create a bauble within my family, friends and community that is not built on fear but love. 2 An alternate bauble that is slower, richer, deeper, more loving and connected.
A case in point; Dave and Robbie are friends that live in my community. Dave is a recovering alcoholic and he, with the help of our community, became a carer for Robbie, who the professionals were going lock up indefinitely in a mental health facility. Dave has been Robbie’s carer now for three years. One night at “blokes” group Robbie said, “Dave, you have saved my life. If it wasn’t for you I’d be in locked ward and I may even be dead”. Dave said, “Well Robbie, you have saved my life. If it wasn’t for you I would be drinking myself to death. I’ve found God and life and purpose through you.” Robbie came up to Dave and gives him a hug and kissed him on the forehead and then says “And I couldn’t have done it without all you guys too”, he then hugs and kissed us all. This sort of alternate bauble is stunningly real and beautiful.
Christmas can be an extension of those communities of hope, faith, love and justice we have created. We can live simply and buy or make thoughtful ethical presents (see usefulgifts.org). We can volunteer our time or talents for people. We can write encouraging cards and letters that express ourselves honestly. We can tread lightly on the earth, where we plant fruit trees and vegetables, raise chickens in the back yard and use them for our meals. Christmas can be a celebration of our lives that have spoken out for the poor, given generously and used our gifts, talents and vocation to make a difference to the least, lost and last.
1) Billy Crystal in “City Slickers”.
2) 1 John 4:18
Steve McKinnon is TEAR Australia's WA State Coordinator.
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