The Work of Christmas (Part 1)

It’s the day after Christmas and the first day of Kwanzaa (which celebrates Umoja/Unity). I never got around to posting Christmas reflections, but maybe it’s appropriate to wait considering that “the work of Christmas” begins on the day after.

As I shared in previous posts, I led a Christmas themed bible study for my church’s young adult group and preached for the third Sunday of Advent. Both were spaces where I felt challenged to engage the congregation I serve in social justice themes of the Christmas story. Hopefully, I’ll get to the sermon summary later, but here’s a bible study synopsis:

Christmas According to the Boondocks: Who is Jolly Jenkins?

Most are familiar with The Boondocks because of the animated series televised on Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim, but the adventures of Huey, Riley and Grandad were first told through a daily comic strip series. Aaron McGruder (who happens to be a co-writer for the soon to be released Tuskegee Airman motion picture, Red Tails) is The Boondocks‘ creator.

We began our study with a “reader’s theatre” performance of a Christmas themed comic strip series from December 1999. In the story, Huey’s friend, Jazmine, asks him if he is excited about Santa coming soon, but Huey (always the cynic) sarcastically quips that the real Santa was a black man named Jolly Jenkins who was unjustly arrested, and put on death row for “spreading books and wisdom” on Christmas Eve. Jazmine quickly shares with her father, Thomas Dubois, the “truth” about Santa Claus.

Tom immediately finds Huey and tells him that the Jolly Jenkins myth is “totally inappropriate” for his daughter. Huey replies, “Well, every year at Christmas, my family remembers a certain famous revolutionary who was unjustly jailed and lost his life.” Tom, puzzled, asks if they celebrate the life Martin Luther King, Jr., Steven Biko, or Nat Turner. Huey replies “no” to all three and encourages him to “think really hard.”

Of course, the “certain revolutionary” Huey invokes is Jesus of Nazareth, but what is revolutionary about Jesus and how is he connected to such revolutionary social and political leaders as Martin Luther King, Jr., Steve Biko and Nat Turner?

From here, we explored two lectionary scriptures for the third Sunday in Advent: Isaiah 61:1-4,8-11 and Luke 1:46-55. Both of these historic Christmas passages suggest God’s investment in political revolutionary struggle and social change. Isaiah proclaims “good news to the oppressed,” “liberty to the captives,” and “release to the prisoners”and Mary rejoices because God has “brought down the powerful from their thrones,” “lifted up the lowly,” “filled the hungry with good things” and “sent the rich away empty.”

Our group then discussed how Jesus himself could be the inspiration for the revolutionary spirits of MLK, Biko & Turner, as they all were self-professed followers of “the way.” We also engaged the possibility that Huey’s Jolly Jenkins could be Jesus, a jolly black man, imprisoned, because we, like Tom, fail to live out the revolutionary call of Jesus’ life, ministry and message.

Yet, there’s still hope, because Howard Thurman reminds us that:

When the song of the angels is stilled,
When the star in the sky is gone,
When the kings and princes are home,
When the shepherds are back with their flock,
The work of Christmas begins…


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