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Monday, December 26, 2016

No place for sadness

Rince Priebus got himself in trouble today by sending out a message referring to "the good news of a new King," which many people thought was a comparison of Trump to Jesus. The RNC denies this, and perhaps the people who got upset really were reading too much into a simple Christmas message.

What matters is that when we celebrate the birth of Jesus we are, in fact, celebrating the "good news of a new King"--a king whose kingdom remains perpetually  new, perpetually different from all the "kings" who vie for our allegiance, whatever their political orientation.

I've been extremely upset since Nov. 8 and extremely focused on politics. I intend to go on thinking and writing and speaking out about what I believe is a very troubling turn in the public life of the country in which I live. But Christmas reminds me that politics is not ultimate. The rulers of this world are not the powers that really matter.

Pope Leo the Great, in his famous Christmas homily, put it this way:

Our Saviour, dearly-beloved, was born today: let us be glad. For there is no proper place for sadness, when we keep the birthday of the Life, which destroys the fear of mortality and brings to us the joy of promised eternity. No one is kept from sharing in this happiness. There is for all one common measure of joy, because as our Lord the destroyer of sin and death finds none free from charge, so is He come to free us all. Let the saint exult in that he draws near to victory. Let the sinner be glad in that he is invited to pardon. Let the gentile take courage in that he is called to life. For the Son of God in the fullness of time which the inscrutable depth of the Divine counsel has determined, has taken on him the nature of man, thereby to reconcile it to its Author: in order that the inventor of death, the devil, might be conquered through that (nature) which he had conquered.

There is, of course, a place for sadness at Christmas. People who have lost loved ones or who suffer from depression shouldn't be made to feel that they are somehow offending against the holiday. It's important to affirm that many people experience a "blue Christmas."

But barring some such deeply personal reason, I think Pope Leo's words should be taken to heart.

Nothing that we fear in our own lives or in the public life of our society can trump (yes, bad joke) the Incarnation. God has become human. God has placed at the heart of our broken world an endless fountain of life and joy. Let us drink deeply of that fountain in the days to come and share it with our thirsty world. Let us fight evil joyfully and merrily, not angrily or in despair. And above all, let us love our enemies and remember that, in Leo's words, "No one is kept from sharing in this happiness."

One of my favorite "eucatastrophe" moments at the end of It's a Wonderful Life comes when George Bailey runs past Mr. Potter's office, looks in the window, and shouts, "Merry Christmas, Mr. Potter!" It is at that moment that you know that, whether he goes to jail or not, George Bailey has won.

So Merry Christmas to all! God bless us every one.

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