Christmas Draws Nigh

Light in Winter's DarknessThe Solstice is past. Advent draws to an expectant close. Christmas Eve is nigh. During  Advent we are encouraged to slow down, to contemplate the miracle of birth, and the suffering inherent in the Christmas story. The story says a child is born, and as with each child that enters the world, hope is renewed. Yet the story also speaks to great cruelty and acts of genocide. In this season we are asked to acknowledge and hold both.

It seems terribly difficult for the dominant culture to face the great darkness inherent in our collective history.  First Nations people know the larger culture to be embedded in violence, as do other people of color. Perhaps 100 million Indigenous people died as a result of violence against them in the past 250 years in North America alone. Untold Africans and African Americans share hat experience. Thousands of children of all races die each year, victims of gun violence. disproportionately, those children are children of poverty or color.

Yet, something new may be stirring in our collective awareness as a result of the Newtown tragedy. Perhaps the youth and innocence of the children taken from us has touched our hearts. Maybe the courage of the teachers and staff has opened our eyes to the immediacy of violence in our lives. Surely the NRA‘s suggestion we place armed police in every school, full time, has encouraged us to question the extent to which we are willing to support the manufacture and selling of assault weapons, and the terror they encourage.

Darkness and human violence are phenomena of Psyche as well as Nature. We struggle with Darkness in deep winter, and wrestle with Darkness in our everyday lives. We are first and foremost animals, driven by ancient needs and desires, and readily falling under the influence of territoriality and hunger. How could it be otherwise? We have come into being here, each a part of the fabric of Pachamama’s web-of-life. The Selves we know are anchored deeply within Her. We find ourselves caught in Her storms and wild weathers, and in the violence that accompanies the demand to survive.

Yet, we are also capable of great generosity, as evidenced by the teachers who stood between the children and the gunman, hardly more than a child himself, the first responders, and the parents who sought to comfort one another in the face of unimaginable loss. In Indian country, the chiefs have traditionally been those the grandmothers have deemed most generous, compassionate, and courageous, the very traits shown by so many who faced this great horror. The chiefs hold the immense responsibility of protecting and nurturing the children, the women (who hold the possibility of the future within them),and the elders in their frailty and wisdom. This week we have discovered that we who live in North America, regardless of ethnicity, live in Federal nations where too many chiefs appear unwilling or incapable of fulfilling this task.

Those who, through abuse, racism, genocide, or poverty grew up with one foot in the joys of Christmas, and the other in deep Darkness, know well the contradictions and suffering woven into the season.Perhaps we are all more aware this year of the underside of Christmas, the oppression, violence, and genocide that are central aspects of the Christmas story.  Joy is also present, although it seems tempered. I wonder, we will be able, as a society, to accept all that connects us to the Christmas story? Will we finally  stop sacrificing our children to acquire, or maintain, power and wealth?

As we approach Christmas, we have the opportunity to acknowledge the darkness and light at the heart of human experience, and to seek balance and wisdom. Let us, like the wise ones of the story, pay homage to The Child, and having dreamed of the danger to children inherent in our present course, continue our journey via a different road.

2 thoughts on “Christmas Draws Nigh

  1. In this time of reflection and wonder, I hope we all…. individually and
    collectively …are mindful of the preciousness of life and each other.
    May we, in Mary Oliver’s words, “be bridesmarried to amazement.” and like bridegrooms “take the world in our arms.” Our suffering planet needs more and more conscious beings. These words by Jeremy Sherman, shared on Public Radio this morning… captures the spirit of this Holiday Blessing more clearly than I could ever express……

    Thank you all for your presence in my life…


    By Jeremy Sherman, “On Wonder”
    We’re heading into winter wonderland. I mean that in two ways. First, the
    traditional way. Things slow down, and hopefully we get a chance to relax
    and not just count our wonderful blessings but savor them in a state of
    wonder, appreciation and awe.

    Second, the other meaning of wonder, as in “hmmm… I wonder.”

    Wonder is a contranym, a word that means two opposite things. Dust, for
    example, which means to remove dust when dusting furniture, but also to apply dust when dusting for fingerprints.

    Wonder is a contranym in that it means both the state of not seeking more
    answers and seeking more. When wonder means awe, you have ample answers, so just appreciate in wonder. When wonder means doubt, you need answers and are unsettled until you get them.

    This holiday season, I’m looking forward to both kinds of wonder. I want to
    treat ‘Joy to the World’ and ‘Good Will to All Humans’ as both answers,
    and as questions. Yes, love is the answer. I’ll join my fine friends donning
    now that gay apparel of positivity for the season.

    But also, in this winter of our political, economic and environmental
    discontent, I aim to turn up that other kind of wonder. Love isn’t the answer.
    It’s the question. How do you love people who are being total jerks? How do
    you love everyone without love becoming an empty gesture? Love is
    demonstrated through effort but since our resources and time are limited, what does it even mean to love everyone? Since people want opposite things, how do we care for one without being uncaring to another? We should all be more
    tolerant — but what does that mean? Being intolerant of intolerance is itself
    a form of intolerance.

    Everyone claims that love is the answer. Gadhafi claimed he acted out of
    love for his fellow Libyans. This holiday season especially, I hope we all
    fall a bit more in love with the big questions. The big challenges ahead
    demand from us both kinds of wonder.

    With a Perspective, I’m Jeremy Sherman.

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