I got sent the above image by Jonny as I was preparing my sermon for midnight communion. It tied in very well with what I had prepared so I thought that I'd share my thoughts again:
On the 18th December 2011 Mohamed Bouazizi a street vendor in Tunisia had his goods confiscated to the authorities, he didn’t have the right pass to sell goods and he didn’t have the money to bribe the corrupt officials. His scales were confiscated and he was reported slapped and spat on by a municipal officer. At 11:30 am he ran to the governors office to demand his scales back. When the governor refused to see him he dowsed himself with petrol, lit a match and set himself of fire. He died 18 days later…His actions were tweeted, blogged about, shared on facebook, sent by instant message and suddenly and spontaneously a movement began. People gathered to protest and the protests grew like wild fire, The Tunisian government fell, and then it spread all over the middle East, Bahrain, Yemen, Algeria, The dictators of Egypt and Libya fell and the movement still continues to this day. The Arab Spring, perhaps the most significant piece of history of 2011.
But do you ever wonder what if? What if on 18th December, Bouazizi had decided to accept the status quo. Accept the oppression, accept how things were, accept a life of exploitation and suffering. Would it have happened? Would Gadaffi still be terrorising the people of Libya? Would Egypt still be under the oppression of Mubbarak? The ripples that his self-immortalisaton started became waves and those waves are still bringing about change in the middle-East today. All catalyzed by one persons act of righteous defiance.
It takes a person to drop that pebble into the pool to create the first wave, it took Mohammed Bouazizi, it took Rosa Parks, it took Gandhi, it takes a person to catalyse a movement for change. A movement for justice and a movement for peace. It could be a simple act of righteous defiance, Rosa Parks refusing to stand up, or it maybe what the person embodies exposes the world to the possibility of a new future. Through those people, and those acts of righteous defiance the imagination is opened up to what could possibly be.
Have you ever thought about Christmas as a moment of righteous defiance? A moment where God says, no, I won’t accept the status quo, no I won’t accept that my relationship with humanity is fractured, I refuse to wait and do nothing, I refuse to be apathetic and I’m going to do something about it. I’m going to reach out to you, I’m going to send my son to be with you and my son is going to embody all that I am and all that I want for humanity.
The stone is thrown into the pond, the ripples begin. A child is born, to a virgin in a stable in Bethlehem, surrounded by rich and poor, by people of different ethnicities and different religions. The ripples grow, the child becomes a man, people follow him, the man is crucified and rises again, the church forms and then 2000 years later the ripples from that stable in Bethlehem hit you. In this place St James Didsbury, 2385 miles away from Bethlehem, and 2012 years away from that birth…the ripples hit each one of us and bring us here tonight. The ripples of an act of righteous defiance, of a God that won’t accept the status quo but want to bring about change.
And that moment of righteous defiance exposes the world and all of humanity to what could be. What does it mean for humanity to be in relationship with God, what does it mean for God’s son to walk on this earth, what does it mean for God’s son to be born in a stable in Bethlehem? That act of righteous defiance releases the imagination. It gets the whole of humanity to think about what could be and how we start to live in the new order. Bouazizi was the spark that released the imagination, but it didn’t stop there, it needed people to pick up the revolutionary spirit and continue the change that was started on that street in Tunisia. And the change that was started 2000 years ago, a change that saw a man brought into the world who loved the unloved, who healed the sick, who brought justice for the poor, who release for the oppressed and taught us to love one another still needs to be carried on today. At Christmas as we reflect on the person of Christ it is a time to release our imaginations and dream and imagine a different world, but and fundamentally to live that imagined world, so that that imagined world ceases to be a imagined one but one that is real. One where the everyday experience of the people that we encounter is marked by love.
Christmas is a time where God reaches out to us and say imagine. Imagine a better world, imagine a new future, imagine a community based on love for one another. But Christmas is also a time where God ceases to imagine and acts, he acts by sending his son who is the embodiment of that new imagined order. Amen