The holiday fervor has been in full swing in our small town since the week of Thanksgiving. The 20-ft Christmas tree and 26-ft German Christmas pyramid were installed at the Marketplatz a good ten days before Thanksgiving. Lighted garland swags were strung across Main Street and lighted wreaths mounted on every light post. All buildings and businesses were completely decked out by Thanksgiving. It’s beautiful, especially at 4:55 AM when I’m on my way to the gym.
There’s a small park behind the historic library and adjacent to the county jail (yes, prisoners do wear black and white striped outfits!). All of the worn child-decorations that once were proudly displayed in the Marketplatz are now relegated to this small, off-the-beaten-path park. I wonder if the wooden nativity scene can be seen from the jail cells?
I know I’m not in California anymore because there IS a public nativity scene…even if it is out of prominent view and next to the jail.
The theme for the second Sunday in Advent is peace. It’s the one time of the year we’re bombarded with platitudes of peace, if only through our cards and carols. It’s also the best time of year to tug at emotional heart strings to shake loose overtures of generosity for those less fortunate.
One of the Scripture passages for this week in Advent is the familiar passage from Isaiah 11 (yes, you’ll recognize it when you see it). The images and metaphorical language represent the peaceful kingdom with the vision of a new leader filled with the spirit of God who will govern with justice and equity, and whose sword will be his strong and powerful word. The effect of such wise and spirit-filled governance is enduring peace.
Well, it’s pretty evident that our planet is a long ways away from enduring peace. And lest we become overwhelmed thinking that each of our little selves has no chance of the proverbial snowball in making a difference, I’m reminded of a simple statement by a wise, spirit-filled woman:
If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other. ~ Mother Teresa
As with all change, we can only change ourselves and hope that our ability to change will inspire others to also change. This is where it gets tough: change takes incredible courage and is very uncomfortable. Thinking that we do belong to each other means striping away judgement and barriers we erect to keep us from having to consider others, especially others we don’t understand or others who have different cultural practices from us.
To remember that we belong to each other, we must tune out the messages of agitation, distress, frustration and worry perpetuated by certain media and political personalities, and fundamentalists of all persuasions. We must be willing to notice that there are different and less fortunate people always around us. And if we notice, are we courageous enough to wrestle with the hard questions, ambiguity, and messiness that comes with belonging to each other.
I’m glad the worn, wooden nativity scene is still put up, even if only off Main Street, behind the library, and next to the jail. It’s a little reminder to me that the real message of Christmas, and peace, is still sometimes missed, and it’s my responsibility to never forget that we do belong to each other.