In high school, I had my own sense of style: bleached streaks in my dishwater blonde hair and a preference for thrift store clothing. I wasn’t trying to stand out, but neither was I working hard to blend in. So, in 12th grade social studies, I was surprised one day when a classmate with a shaved head, knee-height combat boots and a leather jacket got my attention by shouting, “Hey counter culture, give me your pen.” When I puzzled at this new nickname, he informed me that “no one dresses like you at our school.”
It was a bit of a surprise to be singled out. I wonder now what it would have been like to wear a school uniform every day, like the students do here at Morning Star. Would I have still been pegged as “different?” There’s no sense in speculating. Especially since my other observation is that being called “Counter Culture” is a compliment.
Not only that, but to be a Christian is to be countercultural – to look to Christ for our identity and purpose more than the awards and possessions and trappings of this world. And we can take our cues from the biblical narratives leading up to Christmas.
In Luke’s gospel, a couple in advanced age are told they will give birth to a son who will announce the Messiah. Fearing God, they are doubtful at first, but then believe. The father of this awaited child is rendered mute until his son’s birth.
Later in Luke, a peasant girl of Nazareth, whose family lives under the constant threat of Roman occupation, is visited by a Divine messenger. While the announcement of a birth surprises her, she accepts the angel’s news. “Behold,” she replies. “I am the servant of the Lord. Let it be with me according to your word.”
Even her betrothed spouse, wondering if these secondhand words from God are true, sleeps and dreams and an angel visits him, too. They head to Bethlehem and await the promised birth not only of their firstborn son, but a king, the Messiah, who will liberate God’s people from their sins and bondage.
You could argue that the stories of Advent, leading up to Christmas, are counter-cultural. Rather than being caught up in the powers of this world, they are all about listening to God and trusting that his kingdom is the only one worthy of our allegiance and praise.
I don’t know if you’ve ever been singled out as being different in your workplaces or classrooms. But I do know that if you’re reading this, you have some connection to the Christian narrative, found in scripture, that comes alive at Christmas. So, take these stories to heart. Let them “dwell in you richly,” as the Apostle Paul says, and as you celebrate Christmas this year, take delight in the invitation to be countercultural.