Peace in Bethlehem?

It’s a good thing the Barn Baby isn’t in his hometown this “Season of Peace and Goodwill.”  These Fighting Priests would probably tear him limb from limb.

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Killing More Trees for the Bethlehem Baby

Frankincense trees are dying out (BBC).  Why?  Poor farmers need the land, beetle infestation, and, of course, the incense is needed for religious rituals that make God happy.

“Our models show that within 50 years, populations of Boswellia will be decimated, and the declining populations mean frankincense production is doomed. This is a rather alarming message for the incense industry and conservation organisations.”

And, once again, why would three Magi (Zoroastrian Zodiac “magician kings”) travel across kilometres of harsh terrain to bring chunks of metal (gold), burning sticks (frankincense) and expensive perfume (myrhh) to a barn where a shivering little Palestinian Jewish baby was born to unmarried teenage parents?  Why?

Alternative Christmas

Herewith, the Christmas Baby Solstice Sermon for 2011 (note:  Marin is the county I live in near San Francisco):

A Christmas Baby Unwraps the Season

Chris Highland

The dizzying sleighrides are upon us again.  We call them, with a sigh, “holidays.”  Ho, ho, ho. . .hum.  Or humbug.  I’m no grinch, and I have no interest in grabbing a candycane (or a peppermint IPad) from the sticky clutches of a starry-eyed, sweetened-up little child, and there’s no plot to nab a nativity from a kneeling grandma.  But there has to be a saner way to “do the holidays.”

Think about it.  ‘Tis the season for the “CC’s”:  cutting conifers, carving creatures, Christmas carols, Chanukah Candles, the Christ Child and credit cards.  Copy that?  In this glorious land of trees (in excelsis!) the truncating of beautiful, green, living towers seems bizarre. . .cutting back, as we know, isn’t a Marin option.  So, we copy and paste the same old same old year after (blessed?) year.  Why?  We don’t know anything else, and we’re scared to try, I guess.

Killing things to celebrate Life seems a bit weird, especially in the peace-sign capital of the planet.  I gave up the tree and animal slaughter some years ago (I still slip, then swallow my guilt), but I was born, raised, boiled and braised with all the seasonings of the season.  And it still eats me up.  When my daughter was knee high to an elf we dropped a blazing menorah in the middle of a wreath, ate a grateful meal, opened a few gifts and called it our Hanukkah-Christmas (her little hug was my Happy Birthday).  Getting out to Point Reyes or Muir Woods was the best dessert.  Since then I’ve spent a forest of years letting go of “holy days” in favor of a simple, basic contentment with the extraordinarily sacred in every ordinary day.  Each day can be a gift, and being present for others is still the best I can give, to them and to myself.  It’s a little like coming home to yourself, being your own jolly claus–without the trappings and wrappings, the increase in waste and waist.

If you have been homeless (as I have) “home” means something more than the stuff and stuffing we shove into basements, backyards, birds and bellies.  The winter shelter is open again, thankfully, but there are many more neighbors who have to scrounge and scream just to be in, inside, while most of us are out of it, out of touch, unless it’s on a screen, a cell or on sale.

We are so pre-occupied with our occupations we forget to occupy our mental rental space with thoughts for those who simply wish for occupancy.  Maybe this just gets too close to home to think about:  there are so many Marys and Josephs and Bethlehem bundles of troubles out there today and tonight, season after season, forever and ever, amen?  And all we have to offer is another dead tree, dissected turkey or dim iToy.  Bah!

Nah!  It’s not really so blustery bad, not such a snowdrift of sadness.  We can choose to lighten up and tear open something new!  Standing in the bright lights of the dark side of the year why not celebrate the simple delights near at hand: drop the screens for a bit; take a few quiet walks; be the present with friends and family or total strangers; make some art, some love; read a book and read another to a child.  Do something, be something, a little different.

Give yourself the gift of NOT doing the holidays this year.  Or at least not what you’ve ever done before.  Oh, and don’t forget to take long, deep breaths. . .and Be Merry!

(Brainsticker for the Season:  “These Colors Don’t Run. . .Into Wars!”)

Crimes against Christmas!

The Grinch is coming, the Grinch is Coming (and he’s bringing Scrooge)!!

Don’t you love the drama played out on our brains every Christmas Season?

Now, maybe I wouldn’t have chosen to do this, but. . .then again

Teacher Tells Students there is No Santa!

(compare what happened when this news reporter did the same thing on air—oh, for shame!)

*

And here’s a Canadian school taking a creative, inclusive approach. . .

“Political correctness?”  A “War on Christmas and Christians?”

Really listen to these comments from the School Board rep:

“There will be a number of activities planned at the school, including “the Christmas tree decorating contest, a family craft evening complete with a drumming session and carol sing-along.  And once again, students will visit a local seniors’ residence to sing carols,” said Simzer.

The only change is that the annual school concert has been postponed to February to ensure that all students have the opportunity to prepare for and participate in that presentation. This decision supports inclusivity…it demonstrates respect for all cultures.”

Politically correct?  No.  Common sense smarts, good leadership, the true American spirit of pluralism.

(We can hope Santa will bring plenty of these little gifts on his hybrid sleigh this year!)