Christmas musings: coin laundries, Jesus and His message to the 99% …

It’s Christmas Eve tonight in America. In preparation for celebrations tomorrow, I decided to do the washing. In my mind, doing laundry in the U.S. is an ordeal – it includes walking down the hall and stairs with a heavy basket (past neighbors) after finding four perfect quarter coins somewhere within our house. Washing must be reclaimed after an hour to prevent removal by a well-meaning neighbour… or become a hazard for the families who use this small room, and, embarrassing. In Australia, we had our own washing machine. I miss it, and I don’t enjoy the laundry ritual.

But today, I am grateful. Grateful for Christmas, grateful for Jesus, grateful for life. And I’m grateful for little things that make it possible for PhD students to get by. I count myself blessed, but I’d be lost without the coin laundry – buying our own machine here would be expensive – an outlay I don’t want at the moment. And so I overflow with gratitude for the person responsible. This simple little thing made me think about all those who are in actual poverty this Christmas. It’s already something I’ve been thinking about, and praying for – especially friends in the Philippines affected by floodwaters. We received recent news that many are still dislocated by 2011’s Australian floods and Japanese Tsunami. I don’t have much while I’m studying abroad, but prayer is free. And these people are very much on my heart.

One criticism flung at me recently is that Leftist agendas must drive interest in Indigenous Australia. You see, working with those deemed ‘poor’, is, ultimately political. This is because often to speak about power means speaking about how our social structures oppress and hold people captive. This requires the 1% who hold power to acknowledge it is there – and, making power explicit often demands change. Change is not often within the interests of those who are rich (or the non-poor). As I stuff my clothes into the machine, I think about it – I’m overly sensitive to these criticisms, but it does seem crazy to be in America, seeking to investigate themes of reconciliation in Aboriginal music.  I think, ‘what am I doing here?’… can I really relinquish the ideals that have been ingrained through years of Malibu Barbie role models, and see my value as not about material worth, but completely held in Christ? Will others? Who can be sure. And yet, I know that there is something beautiful within the crowd that hang on our street outside the 99 cent store… loved by God. I don’t believe the homeless men collecting tin cans tonight are of lesser value than I am. They are as imaginative, as intelligent, as human – if not more so. But, as John Bradford so famously said, ‘There but for the grace of God go I’. Today, gratefulness is a small evidence of the humility I’m learning. Moving to another country is humbling. I am eternally dependent upon the community here, my husband, and God. I’m continually thankful.

Investigating how Development goals could be championed through music is not so much about finding band-aid solutions, but ways to share community, culture and expression. I’ve noticed a profound relationship occurs when people make music together, particularly within church. It’s like we become our best selves, unifying around a rhythm and melody in worship together. Of course, music also facilitates disunity, just ask the Gallagher twins – but disunity and unity sometimes co-exist together. All of this I have been thinking.

Yes, I am grateful for America – strangely enough, particularly its’ visible poverty. In my view it is better than not to see it. For this reason also I lived in Newtown, Sydney for many years – a place in which poverty is seen… as well as the beauty and obvious God-fingerprint upon humanity. At first, I thought it would be better to say that my work is not political. But my PhD colleague Kevin Young is studying the urban poor of Los Angeles. He’s shared a little of his study with me. He is investigating the social agenda of black churches of L.A. over the past fifty years… earlier today I found this post on their work with the poor []. I’m sure that some assistance given to the poor was motivated by politics. But in the end, the clothes distributions and food handouts were not about those in power, but about Jesus. About all He is, about all His message communicated. I am so grateful for those who care for people who would otherwise be shadows. I am grateful for Christianity in action. I am grateful for the hands and feet of God in Los Angeles. I’m so grateful for those who aren’t scared of being political. And I hope that we can remember this at Christmas.

Somehow, a coin laundry makes me aware of the difference little things make to those who are in need. At Christmas time, I pray you understand the profound message of Jesus – God Himself appearing on earth, and all it means for those bearing His name and the model He set for those who love Him. Here’s to Jesus.

Matthew 25:31 “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne… “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’ “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

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