The War on Christmas

The season of Advent is upon us. A time for Christian folks to reflect and celebrate the coming of Jesus Christ upon the earth. Born to a young couple in a desperate time.

We sing songs including “What Child Is This,” “Oh Holy Night,” “Away in a Manger,” “Joy to the World,” and “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel.”

We read passages from Luke, Matthew, and Isaiah.

We hold pageants, cantatas, and listen to children’s choirs and handbell ensembles. Ringing in the spirit of joy, peace, hope, and unity.

Last year, as I held my son, who was born in late summer, I started to feel uneasy as the season approached. I felt a sense that something was different, changing, and needed to be said, heard, and moved upon. This year, I feel it even more – deep within my soul, and I am finding ways to put it into words, songs, and images.

As we set out our nativity scenes this year, we must take note of what is occurring throughout the world, and has become increasingly pronounced in our own back yard.

There is, indeed, a war on Christmas.

I’m not talking about people saying “Happy Holidays” or “Season’s Greetings.” I’m not talking about coffee shop cups, commercialism, or Santa Claus.

I am talking about the anti immigrant spirit that would reject the Christ child and his family, even in the houses of those who seek to worship him.

Dark

It’s time we confront it, together.

I am afraid that the Church at large is seeing the seeds of capitalism, colonialism, and patriotism, fruiting into idolatry of money and country which excludes the orphan, the widowed, the poor, the oppressed – and yes, the immigrant.

That the Spirit of the Lord upon us to preach good news to the poor and to proclaim liberty for captives has been traded for a flag, material wealth, and blind devotion to party and president.

Bible

That the good tidings of great joy to all people has been claimed and made exclusive to a few.

My heart palpitates with trepidation that the very fabric of the Church in the US has been replaced, whitewashed, and adopted as truth.

Are we like the zealots of Biblical times? Willing to reject the Prince of Peace in favor of the sword, militarism, and barbed wire?

Reject Prince of Peace

Have we forgotten the Sermon on the Mount and listened to the seductive whispers of promises of power and financial gain, rejecting the notion that the meek, the poor in spirit, the pure in heart are blessed?

Surely, in the heart of the women bearing babies across treacherous terrain, seeking safety for their offspring resides the heart of Mary.

In the heart of fathers, determining to protect their families and seek refuge, is the heart of Joseph.

In the face of the migrant child: sunburned, bruised, hungry and afraid – is the face of Christ.

He is hungry.
He is tired.
He is naked.
He is in prison.
He is sick.

But, Lord, Lord, when did we see you?

Have we forgotten the command to love our neighbor? Or cheapened its meaning to fleeting emotions, a limited view of neighbor, or worse…

Have we ignored it?

Have we rejected the promise of abundant life to buy in to a scarcity mindset and mistrust, fear – and yes, hatred of our neighbor?

Our neighbor who is different from us.

Willful and ignorant complicity to the oppression of our black, Jewish, LGBTQ, and immigrant neighbors are a war upon the spirit of Christmas: charity, peace, joy, and unity.

OverheadThe rampant callousness toward others presents a direct opposition to the spirit of Christ and his sacrificial life.

Have we rejected kindness and giving with an inclination toward “tough love” and following the letter of the law?

Are we on the road to Damascus or Emmaus? Will we recognize the face of God? Will be blinded by truth or ignorance?

I am deeply troubled as I ponder these questions and more. I’m unsure of what is next or what we do moving forward from here.

But, what I do know is this.

Jesus is in the heart of the oppressed, the lonely, and the broken.

Jesus is the personification of God with us.

Jesus understands and represents the rejected and the hated,

And if we love him, we will feed his sheep.

Clothe them.

Welcome them.

Fight for them.

 

Truly he taught us to love one another. His law is love, and his gospel is peace.

O Come, Desire of Nations, bind in one the hearts of all…. bid our sad divisions cease.

No crib for a bed.

This, this is Christ the King… the babe, the son of Mary.

Let Earth receive her King. Let every heart prepare him room, and heaven and nature sing.

 

 

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ashes turn grey

Churches are burning. I sat down with a pen and a scrap piece of paper. This is what came out.

ashes turn grey

ashes turn grey

and coals as black

as black can

be

remain.

charred remnants

of holy worship

and cries for

justice

and peace.

where songs were

sung there by

brown, black, mohagany

beautiful

people.

people unseen

unheard

unwanted

but by

God.

God – help.

terrorism erupts

in flames

in shots

in flags

in hearts.

firebombs

from the 60s

the segregationists

are coming

i see

their remnants

in the coals

in the ashes

in the pain

in the

hell and damnation

they cause

and continue

to purpose.

my voice

my mind

my heart

seem small

in the shadows

of the

surging

churning

raging

hatred and blissful

ignorance.

numbness.

apathy.

resolute.

pen and paper

are all i can

bring myself to

words will not come.

how can we wake

wake ourselves up?

then what?

and churches burn

and ashes turn grey.

and brown, black, mohagany

remain.

resolute

to overcome

the terror.

not only God help them.

We.

how did we get here?

what must we do?

Growing Hope

Pregnancy is one of those phenomena I find difficult to describe. Everyday, I feel our daughter growing stronger and bigger inside of me, as I grow larger and more excited and more curious about what she will be like. Along with all that growth, my energy and my ability to focus has not been what it was, and so, writing as often as I’d like has not been possible.

There is so much I have wanted to say over the past several weeks. I had a whole post planned out in my head for Vicky Beeching, who recently came out and has faced quite the backlash, but also some wonderful support. I still plan to write out everything I wanted to say, but not today. So for now, let it be said that I was so encouraged by her bravery and touched by many of her supporters.

I have had a lot on my mind as far as sexual assault and domestic violence. The recent NFL controversies, sexual assaults on college campuses, and an assault involving local high school students has had me reflecting and also planning on what all I can do as an education professional and a counselor. I have worked closely with sexual trauma for several years now, and I am always looking for ways to help more, prevent more, and educate more.

I could say more about the international conflicts, about LGBT homeless, about my own frustrations with my career and wanting to use my counseling skills on a full time basis again – desperately.

I could talk about the economy, the election season, freedom of speech, and  – Ferguson- My God, help us. There is so much to say.

The truth of the matter is that there are so many horrible things going on in the world right now. And the truth is also that there are good things – acts of courage, acts of kindness, acts of selfless giving.

Throughout the Gospels, we read about “the Kingdom of God.” When I was younger, I always pictured a palace, a crown, gaudy royal things that didn’t much appeal to me. Honestly, those images still don’t.

But now that I understand more, I see the simplicity, and I realize that the simplicity and the smallness is the point.

The Kingdom of God is like…

a mustard seed…

yeast…

a pearl…

a buried treasure…

little children…

Small, beautiful, full of potential.

Always growing and working behind the scenes.

This week was not very good for me. I had my hopes up for a big positive change, and those hopes were let down on Friday morning. A family member has made some horrible choices and is self-destructing. Illness was bad.

But still, through being sick, through being told I didn’t get the position, through hearing the latest bad decision of a loved one,

our daughter kicked, and moved, and grew inside of me.

Life, even in the darkness, was growing and is still growing behind the scenes.

I am so quick to forget that the good is still at work, that the sweet will soon come to contrast the bitter, and that the sun will, indeed, come up again.

Yesterday, we dug up our sweet potatoes. To be completely honest, D dug them up while I watched and went back and forth to get things as needed- bending over and working isn’t as easy now that I am about to move into my third trimester!

We neglected the bed of potatoes. The weeds had all but completely taken over. We hardly watered them. We had way too large of a garden this year, and it was more than we could manage. So, the potatoes were left on their own.

We were pretty sure we would have a very small amount of sad little scrawny sweet potatoes. But, we were wrong. We had a good amount overall, many small, but several large.

Even among the choking weeds, drought, and neglect, life was still at work – growing and becoming full of more life to give.

Right now, the life growing inside of me serves as my reminder, as does the garden we plant and tend to. What reminders can you use to continually remember that the good is at work behind the scenes? That life and hope are growing? And that the sun will shine again?

I hope you’ll think on it, and that you will share in the comments if you are willing.

With much hope and anticipation for the better.

Love,

C.