Thursday, December 17, 2020

An Edelweiss Christmas

I write this while sitting in front of my woodstove during the first major snow storm of the season, which has come just in time to ensure we have a white Christmas. That is the only thing that feels normal about this Christmas.

No parties or concerts or shopping. No gathering with believers to usher in Advent by singing “O Come, O Come, Immanuel.” No Christmas caroling. No candlelight service singing “Silent Night.” No large family gathering on Christmas Day to exchange gifts. It feels like the Grinch has succeeded in stealing Christmas this year.

Pandemic and politics have dominated the season. Instead of peace and joy there is ongoing anxiety about the future of our country. Hundreds of thousands more American may die before COVID is finally defeated. At the same time anti-democratic forces in our country seek to undermine our democracy and destroy our beloved freedoms. The Sound of Music with its backdrop in fascist Austria suddenly seems like a possibility in our own land in future years.

A New Hampshire state representative and school board member from a nearby town posted anti-Semitic Nazi propaganda online this week. There have been calls for her resignation, but she has refused to step down. She has not apologized for the content of the post, but has only made excuses. A lawyer and fellow Republican defended her, saying she did nothing wrong. How did we get here? No wonder my emotions are not in sync with the holiday spirit! Where is the peace and joy and love?

On the other hand, perhaps my emotions are more in sync with the spirit of Christmas than I realize. The first Christmas took place in a very stressful time. It happened during military occupation by an authoritarian regime, who ruled Palestine with the traitorous collaboration of religious leaders. After the first Christmas the local autocrat sent in troops to slaughter children in the streets of Bethlehem to preserve law and order.

Perhaps the circumstances of Christmas this year are not an obstacle to the celebration of Christmas. Perhaps they are an aid to seeing what Christmas is really about. Perhaps the political and societal turmoil of our time gives us insight into what Christmas is really about.

Christmas is not about the cultural and religious embellishments that have smothered the holiday over the years. It is not about Hallmark sentimentality. It is the celebration of the birth of a controversial leader who identified with the poor and outcasts of society, as represented by the shepherds who attended his birth. As a young man he was executed by the government and religious leaders for treason and blasphemy.

Not much has changed. The powers of moral and spiritual darkness always lurk at the fringes of human civilization and seek to rule. Occasionally they dominate a culture and control the government and religious establishment. But as the apostle John’s Christmas poem says, darkness will not ultimately win.  “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness cannot overcome it.”  That is what we celebrate at Christmas. Anyone up for a chorus of Edelweiss? 

1 comment:

Unknown said...

Hear, hear! I am firmly among the unchurched, but I love reading your posts.