Grace and Peace to you in this Holiday Season!
Whatever your spiritual or religious tradition might be, allow me first to extend warmest holiday wishes to you and yours. May you find these holidays a time of refreshment, of renewal of relationships on every level, a time of joy and a time of peace, a time in which you come to care for self and others in new and deeper ways.
There is no small irony in the truth that human beings seem to love finding ways to make this season of joy into a season of argument and division. Many seem to believe that forcing others to conform to their idea of what constitutes an appropriate holiday greeting to be more important than loving one another. We paint one another with a very broad and very negative brush. We Christians, who claim to follow the Prince of Peace, seem more interested in an eye for an eye than in loving our neighbors as ourselves. We interpret our scriptures in a lazy and literal way, not really caring about the actual message the authors were attempting to convey, preferring instead to search them for validation of our own prejudice and hatred. We ask one another to “prove” our faith by posting an inane picture on our Facebook wall and claim that God is watching to see if we will comply, and later that day we pass a homeless person on the street and call him a bum (apparently God has selective vision) – and all the while Jesus cries from his cross, “forgive them, for they know not what they do.”
Perhaps I am less charitable than Jesus, but I believe we know exactly what we are doing even as we do not consider the full implications of our actions. Christians celebrate in this holiday season the birth of the Christ child as we stock our homes with more weapons and more ammunition for fear that America may actually pass responsible gun control legislation. In doing so we shoot the same baby Jesus we claim to worship – without ever firing a shot. We become impatient with an underpaid, overworked retail clerk who is unable to feed our worship of the god of materialism fast enough to satiate us (an impossible task, by the way) and we call her a “bitch” without slowing down long enough to realize that same Christ child who lay in the manger dwells in her, too. How many times have each of us called the Christ a bitch in this way? We send drones to foreign lands and kill the Christ dwelling in children with no more thought than required to blow out a match. Then have the gall to criticize adherents of other religions and citizens of other nations for their acts of violence. Forgive us, for we know precisely what we do.
This holiday season, will we finally garner the wisdom to sit in the silence and listen to the voice of God calling us to at long last see that every one of us are connected, each to the other? As Christians we proclaim that Christ was the incarnation of God, and we claim that incarnation reaffirmed God’s having looked at the Creation in the beginning and called it good. Then we twist that incarnation, that God made human in a small, observant Jewish child who was never a Christian nor an American and say that it means that “Christian America” is God’s chosen people, and the rest of the world needs to either convert or die. That reasoning is so twisted it may well represent a psychological disorder, yet from pulpits formal and informal we preach it incessantly. Forgive us, for we know precisely what we do.
We hate in the name of the Christ child and feel vindicated. When tragedies arise from their roots in our violence we are more than capable of taking even the deaths of grade school children and blaming them not on our own disease but on the LGBT community; people of other faith traditions and countries; liberals, conservatives, and those in between; people of color; feminists – the list is endless. We do this because we know our own guilt but cannot bring ourselves to look at it, and so scapegoating becomes the order of the day. Forgive us, for we know precisely what we do.
My prayer for all of us this holiday season and throughout the coming year is that we might intentionally engage the internal process and the external discussion that will bring the horrific things we do but refuse to look at into the light of day. I pray we will engage in an intentional discussion about our lust for violence in thought, word, and deed. May that discussion lead us to a true change of heart, mind, and spirit in the name of that beautiful child whose birth we celebrate on December 25th. May we come to realize that happiness is not found in the endless acquisition of material goods with their planned obsolescence but rather in relationship, one with the other. May we also recognize our own “planned obsolescence,” and realize that everyone and everything dies, and may that realization lead to love and appreciate everything that is while we are still able!
Happy Holidays, Happy Holy Days, Merry Christmas!++Craig Bergland, EFR Presiding Bishop of The Universal Anglican Church