Christmas 2019 has come and gone.
If the Lord tarries, Christmas 2020 celebrations will return in little more than 11 months from now.
In our market-driven society, glossy Christmas advertisement flyers and catalogues will once again make inroads into homes even by October.
Lured by the blitz, parents will once more fantasize while children pester for the 2020 edition of new toys.
Nervous about their fourth-quarter returns, retail stores will try to entice us to empty our wallets and seduce us to worship at the altar of consumerism.
Deep inside, we will realize something is amiss, yet being weak to cut the umbilical cord of pleasure, we will succumb again to the pressure.
However, if we care to trace our Christian roots, we would discover the church fathers had different ideas on how to celebrate the first coming of Christ to earth.
The first church official to propose special activities for the pre-Christmas periods was Perpetus, the Bishop of Tours. To help the flock prepare for the holidays, in AD 490 he advocated fasting every Monday, Wednesday and Friday from Nov. 11 to Christmas Eve.
This practice, which mirrored Lent, spread slowly throughout the Christian church.
In the Orthodox church, Advent still includes fasting. In most places, it lasts from Nov. 15 to Dec. 24. Armenian Orthodox church members fast for three of the seven weeks between Nov.15 and Jan. 6.
Sadly, in this ever-changing world of technology, the capitalist god of market economy generates fanciful expectations that, when unmet, create a vacuum in our lives.
In human history, vacuums have always been filled either for good or bad ends.
The Bolshevik revolution that propelled Vladimir Lenin and Joseph Stalin to power 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 egalitarianism they promised is portrayed in George Orwell’s novel Animal Farm, in which he wrote: “All animals are equal, but some are more equal than others.”
The god of Communist ideology failed and the vacuum persisted.
The rise of Nazism was indeed startling. Our sensibilities are still traumatized by what Adolf Hitler carried out. But we must not forget the vacuum he tried 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. The world suffered.
In our own times, the reign of terror unleashed by suicide bombers raises the question:
Why are people willing to take young innocent lives and sacrifice themselves in the process?
The utopian revolutions of the failed gods of Communism and Nazism and the new gods of the free-market economy and terrorism are also bound to fail.
History is proof the gods of this world are bound to fail over and over again.
Once the euphoria of success is over, the vacuum in human lives will begin to haunt them again.
As Christians, we should never allow the human failures of history to haunt us.
Long ago, humanity declared its independence from God and chased the whirlwinds of ideologies which were doomed to failure.
The biblical times were also brimming with Greek and Roman ideologies, but the simple message of the angels at the first Christmas was, “Peace on earth.”
God’s answer to the problems of the world was a baby — indeed, an invaluable 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 the mundane manger and they were not disappointed.
Rather, they worshipped the King of kings and the Lord of lords.
We are living amid remarkable renewal and growth of the Church worldwide.
What has contributed to this renewal?
Is it information revolution? Information is power and, indeed, information of the gospel of Jesus is the foundation for the onward movement of the church.
But this is information with a difference. It is not just limited to words, but rather the incarnation of the word.
The gospel story of Jesus makes a society that yearns to overcome awful loneliness, isolation and terrorized conflicts of human existence endure by its meaning.
The good news of Jesus-come-in-flesh on the first Christmas Day has the power to make human potential productive under the ever-changing and challenging conditions.
The world, which has suffered and is still suffering under the deadly failed ideologies, needs to hear this good news in 2020 and beyond in order to have an encounter with the living Lord.
Narayan Mitra is a volunteer chaplain at Thompson Rivers University. He can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. KTW welcomes submissions to its Faith page. Columns should be between 600 and 800 words in length and can be emailed to email@example.com. Please include a very short bio and a photo.