— by Rebecca Joy Tucker – –
Four Christmas’ ago, as a new Quaker church planter, I was broke. And it was Christmas. And my mom, since we were children, had always given my brother and I new pajamas on Christmas Eve. The last decade or so, my brother and I have been doing this for her. With all the ways she’s loved and sacrificed for us, the simple reciprocity pair of pajamas seems like the very least we could do.
So, I was broke. And it was Christmas. And I needed pajamas for my mom. I had $15 and I simply had to make it work.Something inexplicable happened approximately 2000 years ago that cosmically changed reality. So, I did something I previously thought unfathomable: I went to Walmart. I found the sale rack and the cheapest pair of purple fleece pajamas (my mother’s favorite). With my head hung in shame, I picked them up and walked in a straight line to the checkout. It was busy. \
Customers were unkind and rushed. The workers were obviously tired and worn thin. In a strange moment of transgressing my Quaker anti-slavery convictions, I felt disconnected – as though I had pulled my soul out of its socket to squeeze in a place it didn’t fit – and sheepishly apologized to the the woman at the checkout; telling her I wished she didn’t have to work so close to the holidays. Then I paid, narrowly make the $14.67 total, and walked out with my stomach churning.
I drove home in silence. As is often the case for Quakers, the silence was loud and spoke volumes to my soul.
I was left with these queries:
- What about the birth of Christ mandates putting ourselves in financial straights?
- What about the birth of Christ mandates shopping for increasingly cheaper deals on increasingly more things made in increasingly unjust environments?
- What about the birth of Christ somehow shackled my abolitionist soul to the necessity of yet another purple fleece nightgown for my mother who, apart from Christmas Eve, wears the same couple of over-sized tshirts to bed every night and generally ends up being too warm anyway?
Something inexplicable happened approximately 2000 years ago that cosmically changed reality. And it began with Jesus’ mother’s words that God has provided for the poor and sent the rich away empty. And again, it began with Jesus’ very first public words when he told us that he has brought good news for the poor and freedom for the captives and oppressed.
Then, something inexplicable happened over the last 2000 years. We’ve been twisted: made poor, captive, and oppressed by some commercialistic idea of how we ought to celebrate that mother’s delivery and her son’s life. Not only is it tossing us into increasing debt and financial difficulties, it is made possible by un and underpaid workers all over God’s world – many of them people who also recognize that something inexplicable happened 2000 years ago that cosmically changed the world. This Christmas, somewhere around 27 million people will spend Christmas as slaves. Not only does this system not work, it makes no sense as a way to celebrate Jesus’ birth.
But, something inexplicable is happening again. In that time of entirely unprogrammed worship as my car traveled home from Walmart, the God who provides for the poor and sets the captives free drew a dream in my mind: a dream of a Christmas marked by provision for the poor and freedom for the oppressed, a dream of a Christmas that celebrated God’s cosmic, though oft invisible – victory over the systems of this world (including a version of capitalism gone awry), a dream of an Orange Christmas.
Over the past four Christmases, this dream birthed a practice for a small group of 20 or so Christ-followers in Sacramento. And then it became a movement as other churches joined us. And it continues to grow and we continue to dream of how a trip to Walmart and a negligibly sized gathering of Christ-followers might turn the tide much as a small baby and his teenage mother did 2000 years ago.
If you follow the modern abolitionist movement at all, you probably noticed that almost everyone’s logo is orange. I’m not sure why. But, orange it is. Orange is the color of freedom. Orange is the color of the hope that 27 million slaves might go free. Orange is the color of provision for the poor and jubilee for the captives. And, to me orange is the color of Christmas. I hope you’ll join me in dreaming of an orange Christmas – where there are no mandates for purple fleece pajamas at record prices and where we celebrate Jesus’ birth with good news for the poor and freedom for the oppressed.
Please visit Orange Christmas for resources, prayers, color sheets, stories and community in this dream. I would be honored if you spent this season, along with us, dreaming of an orange Christmas.