Tuesday, 17 December 2013

Are You Going to a Christmas Dance?

First of all, I would like to go on record to say that I have no objection to fun (the concept or the music group).

Nor do I think celebrations or parties are evil. (Except if by parties you mean drunken lust-saturated revelries.)

I do not believe that fun = going straight to the devil. I take leave to disagree with certain saints who were anti-dancing. (Guess what, saints’ opinions aren't infallible, which is good because otherwise the fact that different saints sometimes contradict each other would be a bigger deal than it is.)

I don’t even think alcohol is the devil's brew. (Which is a shocker for those who know I don’t drink any alcohol except Bailey’s, and probably assumed I have a moral objection to all alcohol.) But of course, moderation.

 GK Chesterton, awesome as always

As a Catholic, I believe there is place for both feasting and fasting. And Christmas is definitely the time for celebrations, feasting and joy.

But. But. But.

You knew there would be a but, didn't you?

In my city, Christmas is celebrated by many Catholics in pretty expected ways- there’s Midnight Mass (or Christmas Day Mass if you’re old and cold), there’s a family lunch celebration which usually includes sorpotel if you’re Goan, and roast chicken with stuffing if you’re my family... and then there’s the Christmas dance/ball/party in the night.

Christmas lunch with family (Don't even ask about the hats)

Christmas dances are quite often organized by the parishes, or the PGI (Poona Goan Institute) or private individuals. They involve DJs, loud music, drunk people, fancy clothes (quite often the shortest skirts, the lowest tops and the most non-existent backs, yay Indian Catholics), food, drink and dancing. Most people from my social world go to these parties, because they want to do SOMETHING on Christmas night, and that’s where all their friends will be.

So what’s my problem?

Quite simply, the fact that these are ‘rich people’ events. With the passes, the clothes, the shoes, the food and the alcohol, you may land up spending thousands of rupees. A lot of people I know are very well-to-do. They are earning well, so they are used to spending a lot. Eating out at restaurants very often, a lot of movies, every new model of their phone of choice as it comes out, nice cars, etc. They are also very generous.

The thing is, we’re called to give till it hurts, not give a little, but make sure I have enough for all my expensive habits and hobbies. To be trite, Christians are called to live simply, so others can simply live. We’re not called to give a lot. We’re called to give everything. As much as we can. The only eternal value our money has is when we use it for love of others.

 And no, I don't think buying Toms really counts

I've been reading most of the Advent readings from Mass and from the Liturgy of the Hours. One of the big themes of Advent seems to be ‘justice’. You probably know that we’re not just waiting for or commemorating the First Coming of Jesus, but the Second Coming too... you know when ‘He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead.’
‘The Savior will not come to be judged again, but to judge those by whom he was judged. He will address those who committed outrages against him... and will remind them: You did these things and I was silent. His first coming was to fulfil his plan of love, to teach men by gentle persuasion. This time, whether men like it or not, they will be subjects of his kingdom by necessity... ‘ Cyril of Jerusalem (313 – 386 AD) 
What outrages? ‘I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink’ (Matt 25: 42) ‘There was rich man who was clothed in purple and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every day. And at his gate lay a poor man named Lazarus, full of sores, who desired to be fed with what fell from the rich man’s table.’ (Lk 16:19-20)

If Jesus’ Second Coming happened to be on December 25th, 2013, what would he find us doing or being? How would He expect His believers to be celebrating? How can I glorify God even in my celebrations, ESPECIALLY when I’m celebrating the birth of the King of Justice?

Picture this:

Rich people eating and drinking at parties that cost hundreds or thousands of rupees, while AT OUR GATE lie communities of people shivering in the cold, eating their meagre meals cooked over open fires on the street.

Migrant labourers living down the street from my parents' home

Does this look like justice to you?

Okay, I guess you can tell I’m pretty fired up about this. You might say, “Well, Sue, so what are YOU going to do about it?” Good question.

This year, I’m not going to an expensive party, but I am going to celebrate, both with my friends and with the poor. I’m planning to invite anyone who doesn't have the money, or doesn't feel comfortable spending a lot of money on the professional parties, to come over to my apartment for some singing, dancing, Bananagrams, Pictionary, Christmas charades, hot chocolate, and food. Each one could bring something to add to the dinner. But before we eat, we are going to buy some packed hot biriyani meals (with the money we would have spent on a party), and take it to the poor community living AT OUR GATE (yeah, I know I’m doing the caps thing again, it’s called emphasis).

I know that making choices like this sometimes comes across as judgmental to people who ARE going to those expensive parties. And I know that I’m not really in a position to judge, because I know exactly how selfish I am. I know people can have other reasons for going to parties like that- maybe they feel like it’s very important for them to be with their non-Christian friends who ARE planning to be at those parties. Or maybe they have been giving away a lot of their income to the poor, and living simply otherwise, so they are okay with splurging this one time.

But maybe they’ve never thought about this. Following Christ means more than paying him lip service, or showing up at Church or even having a personal prayer time. It means holding up our every decision and plan to the light of Truth and judging them based not on our world’s standards, but by His.

And sometimes that means making new Christmas plans.

Depiction of the Second Coming by Lars Justinen

2 comments:

  1. I'm so glad you wrote this. Someone had to. It frustrates me much to the point where I started to get agitated just watching Christmas ads on TV. Thanks!

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  2. Is there a like button in the blog, because i cant find it...! Argggghhhhh!
    I do a bit differently than you do... or rather i used to do... Like you care of people, i care for animals... different i know... but living beings nonetheless... i pick up animals on the way... mostly dogs because i cant find anything else in my sight... i have two dogs... both were the rescued... one day i was hunting for a puppy... (dont ask why-its a sad story to tell and its my past too) anyway i went to a breeder to buy a puppy and i was excited... but when i went he showed me the best of the litter a lab had , but quite in a corner of a cage i saw one more... silent and resting... i asked what happened to it and the chap told me that it had scabies and it was going to be put down after sometime... i couldnt get my mind of her and took her from breeder for free... she had nothing but her head and tail covered with hair and her entire body was hairless (?)... then for the next 06 months, visited the vets and nursed her hoping that she would be normal, but it didnt and the docs said that she wont have nay hair on her anymore but will live for sure... i persisted and nursed her for a few month more and then suddenly one day i saw a couple of hair on her bum! Nobody can imagine the joy i felt then... over the next few months (almost a year) her entire body was covered with hair... she lives with me still and shes happy... shes stunted because of the scabies but shes the one who sits by me when i'm sad! God sent i should say!
    The other was found by a friend, who knowing my love for animals asked me to come to his workplace in a posh IT setup... and i saw her with her eyes closed crying... her mother and the rest of the litter was killed by a truck... and ofcourse the baby was going to die if it was not attended to asap... so i brought her home as a company for the lab who was hairy (hahahaha) and they both are like sisters now... they love and care for eachother and when i'm alone they sit beside me and wait for me to play with them :) and guess what when i come back from my work the other dog (not the lab) comes forth to greet me and literally talks to me... not that i understand, but i ask her questions and she attempts to answer me... and after some time she feels frustrated and puts her paws on her head and probably says that God i tried to talk to this human! She keeps talking though when i'm back or see her... she never gives up on me... they dont stay with me anymore (dont ask why-its a sad story) but i do visit them at my parents once a month and see to it that they bathed, cleaned etc etc Now i carry a parle-g bada pack and whenever i see a street dog i feed it... i cant feed all and every day but i do whatever i can...
    Having said my sob story... and for your benefit... i help people who help underprivileged people / children... mostly children... because i love them for one and they are the future and they need whatever assistance they can... so i support 'Save the Children' (02 children) and another 02 children in a school nearby my house / area... i havent seen any of them but i know they are being taken care of... and i do validate the sources that the money goes too - in case you are thinking of something scams... and yes i have a friend who does rather random things for children... she's an angel... and when she asks for funds, i do whatever i can... :)
    Wish i could do more........................................

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