Wood Carving in the Pantheon, Rome, Italy
It takes more than a half-hearted effort these days to swat away the cynicism and fear. Washington politicians can’t seem to get along or get anything passed, proving once again the need for kindergarten teachers to instruct them on how to play well in the sandbox.
The National Rifle Association’s VP spelled out his solution for avoiding another Sandy Hook massacre: a well-armed security guard in every American school. Not fewer guns. Not tighter gun laws. Not a ban on semi-automatic killing machines. The answer is more good guys with more fire power.
Apparently, people are heeding the call. The Silver Bullet Firearms dealer a few miles from my house had its best year ever, spurred on by a record number of gun sales in the last ten days. It’s no wonder the owners signed their recent Facebook letter of appreciation with a sincere “God bless.” I don’t think I’m paranoid, but I’ve caught myself wondering as I pass people on the sidewalk: Who’s carrying a concealed gun and having a bad day?
Maybe it was the dark clouds of cynicism and fear that caused me to longingly stare at the article promoting cheap land in Europe in my recent copy of the AARP magazine. “The value of cottages on some Greek islands is heading toward zero,” according to one real estate expert. “Property prices have fallen as much as 75 percent in Ireland.” I can live in an Asian country like Thailand on $500 a month. The added bonus is that all three of these countries are safer.
Cynicism and fear have been around a long time. We read in Matthew’s gospel that when King Herod heard of a child born king of the Jews, he was frightened and all Jerusalem with him. Herod then tried to trick the wise travelers from the East into telling him the whereabouts of this potential rival. Getting no response from the Magi who were eventually tipped off to his plan in a dream, Herod, as the story goes, killed all the male children under the age of two in the region.
As death lingers in the air, as grieving parents stand over the graves of their slain children, as Syrian citizens are killed by their government, as the unemployed wonder how much longer they can hang on, as folks on the east coast rebuild their homes, as another 30,000 children around the world die today because of hunger-related causes, the hard work of keeping the message of Christmas alive doesn’t get any easier.
I’m reminded of an encouragement from Dr. Howard Thurman, the first African-American to serve as Dean of Marsh Chapel at Boston University from 1953-1965.
When the song of the angels is stilled,
When the star in the sky is gone,
When the kings and princes are home,
When the shepherds are back with their flock,
The work of Christmas begins:
To find the lost,
To heal the broken,
To feed the hungry,
To release the prisoner,
To rebuild the nations,
To bring peace among [all],
To make music in the heart.
The work of Christmas is worth doing.