We’re not sure where and when this work by Banksy was originally created. Like lots of Banksy’s other art it has taken on a life of its own, reproduced everywhere including t-shirts and posters that you can buy for a tidy sum. I wonder whether any of the proceeds get back to Banksy himself.
Advent is over and we are now up to the second day of Christmas, St Stephen’s Day, Boxing Day. We hear a lot of mixed messages on St Stephen’s Day. It is the setting for Good King Wenceslas. It’s a day of generosity and giving gifts to family (on the second day of Christmas my true love gave me two French hens!) and to the oppressed (c.f. Good King Wenceslas!). It’s the day commemorating the first person killed for proclaiming the gospel of Jesus.
It’s also the day that many department stores and shopping malls stores fling their doors open for and call us in for discount shopping. It’s the day people return gifts they didn’t like and trade them in for something better, the day we go out and do a little shopping for me this time. I deserve it!
Could this day be any more confusing?The anticipation and joy of Advent leads into the exuberance of Christmas gladness, sharing what we have, rejoicing that God would lavish such generosity on us in his son to make all things new. But, on St Stephen’s Day, on Boxing Day, Christians are easily pulled into other directions. We are sucked in by the consumerism, we take the opportunity to hunt for a bargain and forget to consider other ways we might spend our time and money. Or we flip out and become Scrooges, refusing to participate in our cultural festivities at all.
The fine line we try to walk on Boxing day is a very delicate line of being anti-consumerism without being anti-materialism. We come face to face with greed, people queuing to amass more goods that they don’t actually need, not to mention the quiet shopping lists that form in our own minds (I think I really do need a new pair of shorts…). It’s easy to slip from a depression about consumerism and its grip on our lives into an disgust of all material goods and a subtle asceticism.
But remember Wenceslas! If we completely retreat from the material world into our own world – a world constructed without food and clothing and any contact with the consumerist society around us – what have we to be generous with? As Banksy calls us away from consumerism, Wenceslas reminds us of the importance of practical generosity, sharing our material possessions alongside our love, prayers and time spent together. These are gifts from our Father and creator, and we freely give them away to others, knowing that He is always caring for us (c.f. all of Matthew 6).
Ultimately, it is not Banksy or Wenceslas who show us the way to respond to the greed we see on Boxing Day. It is Jesus. The incarnate Son of God does not despise the world he created, but humbles himself and takes on flesh for our sake! The Son of God, the Messiah, establishes a new kingdom that turns the world upside down. He shines light into the darkness. He leads by serving. He gives life to those who lose it for his sake. He is strong in weakness, he brings victory through defeat, he is glorious in his humility and he brings life through death. He loves his world with a sacrificial love.
He did not give us life so that we could mindlessly consume. God has given us life in Christ; we are being conformed into the image of the Son. We are given life to live the upside down way that Jesus did. It’s a fine we walk on Boxing Day. It’s a fine line we walk every day, standing firm in our identity as a child of God, renouncing sin, the world and the devil, loving the world he has made.
Today is our last day of posting on the Advent Project. Thank you to all who have contributed with ideas, material, feedback and support. We hope and pray that this Advent and Christmas season have been a time of growing in love, grace and godliness. We pray that you continue to stand firm in him, and we look forward to worshiping the Lord alongside you, for eternity, in glory.
For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then we will see face to face. Now I know only in part; then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known.
1 Corinthians 13:12