Thursday, December 22, 2005

Keep your Christmas tree up

Regular visitor Public Theologian sent me this message as part of his role at Christian Alliance for Progress.

Wednesday, December 23, 2006


We have heard a lot about "saving Christmas" during the last couple of Decembers. With people whipped into a frenzy by right wing pundits, it has become all the rage among certain branches of Christianity to protest by boycotting any retailer who makes mention of "Happy Holidays" or to sue local governments who balk at manger scenes on the town square. All this is apparently done for the purpose of reminding America of the "true meaning" of Christmas. But boycotts and lawsuits are hardly the substance of the Christmas season, as anyone with only a passing familiarity with the Gospels will no doubt attest.

The meaning of Christmas transcends the culture wars in which we are now engaged. For Christmas is God's statement to all of humanity--Democrats, Republican, Christians, Muslims, Jews, blacks, whites--that God is for the world, for all of us, each and every one, and that although we have made a mess of things, God has not given up hope in our ultimate redemption and reconciliation. Despite all of our shortcomings and all our attempts to destroy God's image in our neighbor, Christmas is the reminder that God still is hopeful for us and our futures, and that we have not been abandoned, but that God will be with us until all that is wrong with the world will be made right.

And that God gave the world this wondrous sign in such an unexpected package is what is truly amazing. Poets, artists, and lyricists have strained for centuries to capture the irony of this unexpected event: how the embodiment of this hope of God came not by way of the great courts and capitals of the world, nor was it preceded by a huge public relations campaign with all of the attendant media hoopla, but rather came to the world in the form of a child born to an unwed, homeless, refugee mother and her fiancé in the humblest of shelter.

Such humility would characterize the child as he grew into manhood. He did not allow the prejudices of his day of religion, ethnicity or health to color his view of the people around him, but rather saw in each of them the image of God and therefore treated them all as neighbors, meeting their needs whatever the circumstance. Even when such associations were costly to his reputation and even his personal safety, he would not abandon a single person, even one who betrayed him. When some sought to use him for violent political purposes, he refused to become that kind of leader and instead gave up his life to make friends out of his enemies.

Whenever one gives to a person in need, whenever one repays evil with kindness, whenever one stands firm in hopeful expectation where seemingly only despair could survive, one incarnates the spirit of that first Christmas so long ago in Bethlehem. A visitor to an elderly woman's home one August brought surprise to her guest's face when she walked into the living room and saw the Christmas tree, still decorated, standing stoutly in the corner. Thinking the elderly woman to be losing her grip on her reality, her friend gently inquired as to whether she had forgotten what season it was. The elderly woman replied that she knew the season perfectly well, but needed help remembering something else. "Keeping the tree up year round reminds me every day of what Christmas really means. That's what I am in danger of forgetting."

Perhaps we should all keep our trees up this year.

Rev. Tim Simpson

Director of Religious Affairs

Couldn't have said it better myself.