This might be my favorite Circle of Hope proverb:
Life in Christ is one whole cloth. As we participate in and love “the world,” we bring redemption from the Kingdom of God to our society. Jesus is Lord of all, so we have repented of separating “sacred” and “secular.”
It is so generous. It’s trying to help us see the world and all of the good in it. It is like Acts 17, when Paul is running away from his enemies and ends up in Athens and uses one of their inscriptions to introduce Jesus to Epicurean and Stoic philosophers. It is like in 1 Corinthians when Paul says he needs to be “all things to all people.”
The Christmas season in the United States is full of opportunities to not separate the sacred and the secular. You could get mad about Christmas trees, and the godless Christmas carols, and all of the movies and TV specials that really have nothing to do with Advent and the incarnation of Jesus. There is some righteousness indignation to be had, but sometimes, I think, it comes off as snobby.
I kind of felt like a snob when I was watching Microsoft’s latest commercial. It didn’t mean my standards. Give it a watch and let me know what you think:
They are singing “Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me.” (“Peace on earth” is a great Christmas phrase taken right out of Luke 2:14). It’s a nice, Christian message. I’m a peace lover and I can see Jesus right in what they are saying.
But they aren’t talking about the Middle East and ISIS. They aren’t talking about gun violence in the U.S. They aren’t talking about police brutality. They are talking about Microsoft and Apple’s corporate competition. So the image gets a little old for me, once I realize that. “Microsoft employees deliver a special message to some old friends” is the notice in the ad.
I have a personal conviction against corporations acting like humans. Legally, the notion is called “corporate personhood.” It’s why the Supreme Court at some point decided endless campaign financing was simply free speech. Corporations got the rights of people before some actual people did. So when I watch a video of this, I have to ask a few questions:
Can corporations be friends?
Why wouldn’t their employees be?
When corporations get along, is that really peace?
What are they even talking about?
It’s a little frustrating as we try to see Jesus in the world around us and we are surrounding by advertisements that are subverting the very message of Jesus in Christmas and using it to sell smart phones. And use the NYCs youth choir on top of that!
I think as we observe Jesus in all things, we need to insert him in the ambiguity ourselves. Critiquing this weird advertisement could be important. Most of my friends watching this will quickly call BS on it. Because it is full of it! It’s an inane ad and we get plenty of those these days. When we resist that evil, we are opening up an opportunity for hope to flourish.
But before we deconstruct it to death, why not try something else? Knowing that people will find hope in this little ad (they might even think Microsoft is being a “big company” by doing something kind) should cause us to curb our criticism. Instead of saying “to hell with Microsoft,” why not say, “I know where the origin of that peace they are singing about comes from.” Because you do.
You know the secret. So when you see glimpses of Jesus this season, try to save them, put Jesus right in them. Redeem them. You have that option and that power. Merry Christmas!