Christmas is a time for remembering everything that has come before us. It’s not a kind of memorial day when we remember what we lost, but instead a day to remember the great gifts that have come to us over the many years. The circle of gratitude is widened every year as the holiday expands with new love and new memories.
It may be more important this year than ever.
One tradition for many people about my age is “A Charlie Brown Christmas”. In many ways this defines the tension of Christmas itself, even though very little in popular culture has been willing to decry the commercialism that is the true “War on Christmas”. And in the process it gave us a new definition of holiday cheer, bringing Vince Guaraldi’s cool jazz into the warm holiday like a sprig of winter itself.
I have run this story for Independence Day many times. I feel that this year the message is even more important.
The misunderstandings and suspicions melted away, as they always do, after a few litres of liquid bread that the Germans call “Bier”. Harald was very honest in his German way, a kind of honesty that was spelled out in long, silent pauses as much as words. “With all of these different people and cultures, what is it that makes you Americans?”
I swallowed my beer to give me time, and the perfect answer came to me:
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
A bizzy week requires another repeat. This is about a way to revive our values in public life, so it is timely.
“Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.”
John 20:29 (NRSV)
We live in a time of great turmoil and change. Economically, socially, spiritually, and even biologically our nation is different every day. Our growing diversity should be a strength, not a weakness, if we can find ways to hold ourselves together by emphasizing the principles forged into traditions that made this nation great. But somehow, even simple decency and respect for each other often eludes us.
Why is this? I have come to believe that we have made our great principles far too intellectual, that the beliefs that should hold us together are exercises for the brain when they should be felt with every beat of our hearts. To change this we need more solid physical reminders in our every day life of who we are, as one people – because in the end we are all made as much in the image of the doubting Thomas as much as anyone.
The dust continues to settle after the Brexit earthquake. US markets stabilized today, but it appears to be a “dead cat bounce” or a technical upturn as short positions are covered. It comes from the saying that even a dead cat will bounce up one story after falling off a ten story building. It certainly feels like that kind of week, especially if you think about whatever dead animals might account for the ridiculous hair of Donald Trump and/or Boris Johnson.
Then again, it hasn’t been a week yet.
For all the comparisons between this vote and the Trump phenom, they still don’t do this situation justice. People all over the world are recoiling from opening up markets and generally moving closer together. The threat to the EU is far from done as “euroskeptics” on the continent will certainly be emboldened – as will globalskeptics around the world. What has gone wrong?
“How good it is for us when the Lord unsettles our lukewarm and superficial lives.”
– Pope Francis, tweeting as @Pontifex, 7 April 2014
Palm Sunday is the start of Holy Week. This is the day Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a humble donkey, a hero to the adoring crowds. His subsequent challenge to the authorities who were jealous of his popularity got him tortured to death in just five days. It is a day meant for this new People’s Pope, now with a full year under the simple skull cap (or yarmulke) he is usually wears in public in place of the pointy miter of authority. But this Holy Week is a special one, and not just for this pope’s anniversary.
One week after the Easter celebration of resurrection Popes John XXII and John Paul II will be canonized as saints, recognizing their work as reformers of the Church to be the hand of God himself. They make a formidable pair, one more liberal and the other more conservative. Together, along with Francis’ year of tumult, this event will probably mark the start of a major leap for reform and reinvigoration of the Church. This is a good day to question authority and the “superficial lives” that coast along in need of renewal, and Pope Francis appears to have a plan.