Thursday, December 8, 2011

To Tree or not to Tree: That is the question

We have, in Rhode Island, recently been subjected to what would be laughable if it were not so sad. As the Occupy Providence movement raises deep questions about economic disparities, power inequalities, and the breaking down of community; as foreclosure and unemployment rates continue to be unacceptable; as the homeless shelters in the state, including ours at St. Paul’s, are oversubscribed; as we hear, just a couple of Sundays ago, that the criterion for the final judgment will be did you respond to the needs of those who are the “least of these” in our society – we have been launched, not only by talk show hosts and letters to the editor, but even by religious leaders, into a passionate debate about what to call a tree. Yes, apparently the really important concern is what to call chopped down trees covered with lights and ornaments. The tired old canard of the “war against Christmas” has raised its mitered head.

Is it not time for the church to look no longer to the state (especially the state of Roger Williams) to prop up religious observances? Certainly, let us raise up Christmas trees – in the homes and churches of Christians (after Advent, of course). Let our children learn Christmas carols – in the liturgy and in formation programs, not in the government schools. And above all, let us celebrate the birth of the Messiah with a focus on what is truly important: the redeeming love and grace of God that becomes flesh to share and transform our lives, and in turn calls us to transform the world.

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