Matt W Cook

writer.former fundamentalist.christianly fellow

Tag: christmas

Guest Post – News from i117

Hello friends!

It’s that time of year again–no, not Halloween. Widow’s Christmas Party!

In all the busyness of life it’s easy to forget about the hardships of people on the other side of the world. All the little things that make life in Canada comfortable and ‘safe’ tend to clutter up our attention. It is hard to keep the poor in mind when our hands are so full with work and school and kids and Halloween parties and whatever else we fill our lives with. Our goodies distract us.

Our widow friends have started to ask if the gathering is on for this year. I want to say ‘yes!’ And I want you to be a part of that ‘yes!’

With $600 we could throw a great party for these marginalized people of Sindh. Like each year, we will feed them, give them gifts of much-needed supplies and clothing, and share the love of Jesus. It’s a small sum of money that can be turned into a huge sum of love.

If you’d like to take part, go to i117’s Paypal site. Or message me through Facebook or e-mail.

“Then the King will say to those on his right, “Come, … For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me.”
– Matthew 25:34-35

The thing about Christmas

Jesus was a revolutionist.  I guess that word is loaded.  I usually think about people like Che Guevara when I hear it.  It’s hard to see how the same word can apply to gentle Jesus, meek and mild.  But it does.  Because Jesus started a dramatic and wide-reaching change.  The world is a better place because of him.  Sure, there have been horrendous things done by people who thought they were working on his behalf.  But I bet they would have done those horrendous things anyway.  They’d have just found some other figure or religion to justify them.

For me, Christmas is still a time to celebrate Jesus.  Because no matter what I think about who Jesus “really was,” he’ll always be the first one who showed me how someone can love their enemies and stop grasping the fleeting wealth and vapoury things of the world.  He’ll always be the first one who showed me that real love is bigger and scarier than I could have imagined.  He lived the path of love so wonderfully that it killed him.  And the miracle of it was that he made it all seem worth it.

So I still celebrate Jesus, in my own little way.  I still keep Christ in Christmas.  Not by shouting his name or correcting people when they say Happy Holidays.  I do it by being thankful that he walked the earth and shared his ideas.  I do it by taking his ideas as my own and doing my part toward bringing the Kingdom of Heaven (as I understand it) to earth.  And when I do that, Christmas isn’t a burden.  Because it’s not about gifts and shopping.  It’s a loud and boisterous reminder of a gentle and subversive teacher who wanted to turn the world upside-down with love.

Happy Holidays

Ah, December, the season when Christians post snarky things to Facebook letting everyone know that they’ll be saying ‘Merry Christmas’ this month instead of Happy Holidays, thus ignoring Christmas Eve, St. Stephen’s Day, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, New Year’s, Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe and Epiphany.

It’s not a war on Christmas, friends. It’s just the inconvenience of having a solstice for your culture’s favorite holiday.

It’s not a war on Christmas, friends.  And even if it was, it really doesn’t matter.  Or, at least it shouldn’t matter.  At least not to Christians.

One person esteems one day as better than another, while another esteems all days alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind. – Paul of Tarsus

It’s not a war on Christmas, friends.  Not with 77% of Canadians identifying as Christians.  Hard to play the persecuted card when only 23% of the people are the evil oppressors.

So whatever holidays you plan to celebrate this season, may they be happy and fill your with the warm joy of being alive and a part of this amazing brotherhood of humanity.

Peace on Earth.  Goodwill to all.

Cloak and Dagger

     My wife blew my mind with this year’s Christmas gift. She bought me a cloak. It’s amazing. It’s a woolen, brown winter cloak that reaches to my ankles and is warmer than any coat I’ve owned. It’s the perfect thing for winter. Best gift ever.

     But not everyone thinks so.

     You see, when you dress funny, people stare. I’ve always dressed a little funny, but I’m getting the impression that the cloak crosses a line. The stares are pretty blatant now. And not all of them are amused.

     So what do I do? What do I do when I walk through the grocery store, cloak flowing behind me, and kids start laughing? When old men roll their eyes? When people stare with that look that says ‘What’s wrong with that guy?’

     I smile, give my cloak a bit of a flourish, and move on.

     Because I wear clothes for only two purposes: Function and Fun. I don’t dress for strangers. I don’t care if people think I look like an idiot. Wearing a cloak is fun. You know it is! Everyone wishes they could wear a cloak. But nearly everyone is too afraid.

     Fear is dirty. Fear cripples every good thing you wish you could do. Especially creative things like writing and clothing.

     For a brief, tiny moment I wondered if I shouldn’t wear this cloak outdoors. But I knew that since I loved it, I had no choice. Because all the harsh stares in the world are nothing compared to the suffering of the man who makes his decisions based on what others will think of him.

     So I wear a cloak when it’s cold outside. And I write my book the way I want it written. And I live my life the way I want to live it. Anything else is dishonest. And woe to the man who is dishonest to himself for the sake of pleasing the world. That man lives a shallow life. That man lives a boring life. That man wastes his life. That man needs to read this comic from xkcd, pour his true heart onto a piece of paper and get himself a cloak.

Consumerism, Goats and Vile Persecution

     Tis the season to be whiny.

     Sorry, was that negative? I didn’t mean it to be.

     But it’s hard to miss during the festive seasons. Which is too bad, because I was raised thinking this time of year was about the greatest gift we ever got: Love in the shape of a baby.

     And I can’t really point at anyone else and blame them for the complaining that marks December. It’s my own tribe. And there are two things you’ll be sure to hear us whine about until the new year.

     First, we’ll whine about how the rampant consumerism has utterly destroyed the message of Christmas. We’ll complain about the sex-driven ads, the ridiculous rushes at the malls, the blatant love of stuff and money.

     All the while, we shop with the rest of them.

     If malls are temples to the great and terrible gods of commerce and materialism, the folks in my Christian tribe are just as devout as anyone.

     My wife is using her wild, love-filled i117 project to fight consumerism. She’s buying goats for widows in Pakistan to help them get enough income to feed their families. Go to her facebook group or send her an e-mail if you want to help battle Christmas consumerism with her!

     Second, we complain about how no one says ‘Merry Christmas’ anymore.

     Seen this comic before? It floats around every year. Of course, no one ever gets sent to the Principal’s office for saying Christmas (sidenote: notice how the two on the left are dressed like punks and the poor, persecuted Christian boy is oh-so-spiffy?). Doomsayers have been predicting this kind of ‘persecution’ since the 80s, but it still hasn’t happened. And, no, the elimination of the state-sponsored promotion of Christianity does not count as persecution.

     Guess what? Jesus is not threatened by folks who celebrate other holidays around the Solstice. He’s just not. He’s more secure in himself. And I’m not threatened by people who wish me a happy holiday. I say thanks, and wish that all their holidays are happy, too. Whichever holidays that might be.

     Because the cause of Jesus (love, mercy, compassion, forgiveness, tolerance) is not furthered by us whining about how good our religion used to have it back when we ran the show. It’s furthered by rejecting consumerism and intolerance both.

     And now I’ll quickly hang a lantern on this post and acknowledge that I’m whining, too. But, at the very least, I’m whining about something different.

Now go buy some goats!