Rev Trevor Sargent’s Ecological Notes for December 2018 – Preparing the way for the Lord with more joy and less ‘stuff’

nativity 3There is no shortage of guides in the media telling us how to prepare for Christmas. These include guides to a greener Christmas, advocating support for local producers and re-using decorations etc.

Turning to the Bible for some guidelines, the Gospel of Luke (Luke 3: 1- 18) takes up the call in Isaiah to, ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight’. On hearing all this, the people ask John the Baptist, ‘What should we do?’ John answers, ‘whoever has two coats must share with anyone who has none; and whoever has food must do likewise’. (Luke 3:10)  In essence, John the Baptist is saying quite directly to his audience, to get rid of ‘stuff’ and be content with what you have.

The challenge for the modern Christian surrounded by a culture of consumerism is to ponder the possibility that there is more joy in owning less than we can ever find in owning more. There is a maxim which says, ‘the more stuff you own, the more your stuff owns you’.

Jesus continues to beat the minimalist drum in his advice to the rich ruler, telling him, ‘Sell all that you own and distribute the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come and follow me’, (Luke 18: 22). The greater challenge for us is to understand this line, not only as a formula for social justice, but also as a formula for joyful living. Jesus has much more in mind for our lives than the unending acquisition of ‘stuff’.

I struggle with the reality of minimalism, I must confess, but the idea makes sense, not least for the fragile finite planet which God has created for us to till and to tend. After all, less consumption means less waste. The trick is to consume less so we can live more. Less shopping means more free time. Less ‘stuff’ means tidier spaces at home.

So how does a minimalist celebrate Christmas? The focus is generally on exchanging experiences rather than giving things as gifts. Rabbi Schachtel said, ‘Happiness is not having the things you want, it is wanting the things you have’.

A sociable or solitary walk over Christmas is an opportunity to value what is important in life, as we prepare the walkersway of the Lord.

Whatever you do in preparing the way of the Lord, this Advent, may it bring true happiness, for you, your family and friends, including planet Earth, which we hold in trust for our children’s children. Our hope is that they might enjoy many a Happy Christmas too. Nollaig shona dhaoibh go léir agus Athbhliain faoi mhaise.