Breaking with Christmas

This year feels like a moment in history to break the superficial facades that patch over deep cracks in our churches and society.

It is common to hear people say “our healthcare system is broken.” Or they say the education system is broken. The Emergencies Act inquiry is exposing how broken our police and security systems are, in spite of huge budgets, sophisticated equipment and impressive uniforms. In Egypt, COP 27 is exposing broken promises to reduce harmful emissions, yet again. In church liturgies and prayers, we call out brokenness in our world to confess the pervasiveness of sin. Christ, the ultimate fixer for what we can’t fix, offers hope for a new world, but we still live with a lot of anxiety about our current world.

We accept brokenness – perhaps too easily. The truth in Leonard Cohen’s famous line of poetry has become a cliché: “There is a crack in everything; that’s how the light gets in. “

The disruption of Christmas

We accept brokenness, but to break something is less accepted, whether it be a mother’s treasured dish or social norms. We want everything to be nice, especially at Christmas time. In this season of happy music and good cheer, we patch over cracks to make it look like all is well and there might be a chance of peace on earth. But I recall Mary’s words about the meaning of Christmas: scattering the proud, bringing down the powerful and sending the rich away empty (Luke 1: 46-55) involves breaking the existing order of things – intentionally.

If we take Mary’s words and the deep truth of Leonard Cohen’s poetry seriously, maybe we need to break with some familiar Christmas habits. Sing more of Mary’s Song and less Away in a Manger. This year feels like a moment in history to break the superficial facades that patch over deep cracks in our churches and society, to let in piercing light as well as mellow candle-light. Perhaps it is the urgency of the climate crisis that makes me think this may be a moment for some intentional breaking of the established order. But not the dishes, please!


  • Kathy Vandergrift

    Kathy Vandergrift, a public policy analyst, brings experience in government, social justice work and a Master’s Degree in Public Ethics to her reflections.

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One Comment

  1. Thanks for this column. I think it makes about as much sense to celebrate Christmas with tinsel and parties and singing lite and fluffy songs as it would to celebrate Ramadan by buying a diet book.

    Betsey and I celebrate Christmas by singing songs about Jesus (Christmas carols, not winter carols) at a nursing home for those who don’t have families that take them “home” for the day.

    On a lighter note, our “Christmas tree” is a Redbor kale plant, still standing in the garden.

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