The BAD news is Christmas 2008 finds us sliding deeper into the recession I predicted eight years ago. I don’t claim any gift of foretelling but it is true that I complained that the policies behind George Bush would lead to something similar to the Hoover depression.
Many writers now say we are seeing the trickle-down political economics of recent years unravel after unleashing carnal greed and economic conquest, supported by divisive politics that squeeze the living life out of those most vulnerable.
America did not have a system of political party’s until Thomas Jefferson enlisted James Madison and campaigned on an anti-federalist politic. He cherished the rights of a colony above and beyond anything on a federalist level.
Neither Washington nor Adams were party men. Yet, America could not have become the great nation it has without developing federal powers. And we still fiercely contend for one side or the other, and give far more attention to maintaining power than to achieving the common good.
That is just one more reason that I celebrate the birth of Jesus in this Christ-mas season. He cared very little for personal power, but he cared a great deal about people and the common good. The time he lived in the first century was not unlike our own. Life was cheap. Suffering was epidemic. Poverty and slavery were everywhere, unless you happened to belong to the ranks of the privileged.
However, JESUS WAS BORN! He came in the humblest of forms, the total dependence of a newly born. Obviously, he was not much of a politician, otherwise he need not have died. Yet, in his weakness he exhibited a strength that forever changed the world--enough that we mark time by his birth--before and after.
It is that strength--the power of love--that we need today, neither worldly wisdom nor wealth. Wielding the power of love, he changed the course of human events and forever transforming the lives of millions who worship him as the Christ of Christmas.
Other religions dominate in other places of the world, but they do not allow the personal freedoms, the human rights, et al, that we enjoy in America. That does not mean America is a “Christian nation,” it is not. In spite of much of America’s sinfulness, it remains the one place in the world where “Christian values” transform socio-political values into the common good for the most people.
Both Washington and Adams were deeply religious men. Jefferson challenged traditional teachings about Jesus, but he acknowledged the values of Jesus. In fact, we owe it to Jefferson for putting principles of Jesus into the Bill of Rights, as related to human rights and the common good of all men.
So, while we’re celebrating this Advent Season, let us celebrate the gifts that Jesus would share with us, like love, joy, peace on earth among men of good will, with equity and social justice for all--not just the privileged.
Harold Kushner described his house painting grandfather eking out a modest living in Lithuania. In addition to his grandfather having the public image of a painter, he also had a secret identity; he was one of God’s agents on earth, maintaining literacy in a sea of ignorance and kindness in a world of cruelty.
His every act, every day became important, because he believed it mattered to God what he ate, how he earned and spent his money, how he respected his wife and treated his children. That sense of having to live up to God‘s standards, wrote Kushner (Who Needs God/77-78),redeemed his grandfather’s life from anonymity and insignificance.
The GOOD NEWS is that is what Jesus does best for each of us.