I love Christmas television specials and movies. I grew up on shows like “A Charlie Brown Christmas” and “How the Grinch Stole Christmas.” My children did too. We still watch them. Okay, I watch them and my children pretend to watch while doing things on their phones or the computer.
Last night as I watched “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” my attention was caught by the explanations of the Grinch’s hatred of Christmas:
“It could be, perhaps, that his shoes were too tight.
It could be his head wasn’t screwed on just right.
But I think that the most likely reason of all
May have been that his heart was two sizes too small.”
And I wondered if these things might not speak to me, to my own experience of Christmas specifically but the holiday season generally?
Are my shoes too tight? Am I stuck in ways and behaviors that I have – or should have – outgrown? Do my too-small shoes keep me from enjoying and celebrating as I could?
Is my head screwed on just right? (Family and friends are NOT invited to respond to this question.) Are there filters I have that keep me from seeing truly? Are my expectations of others and circumstances – maybe even of God – out of whack?
Is my heart too small? For the Christian, Christmas celebrates Incarnation. The Lord of the Universe was born a human baby – the infinite came on the world stage in the infinitely weak and small. Is my heart big enough to receive and respond to what God has done and continues to do? Is my heart big enough to respond to my family, friends, and neighbors who need love this season?
I am not the Grinch – I love Christmas. But I hope every Christmas I grow a little and that my perspective expands too. Most of all, I hope my heart will grow a size or two this year.
As Thanksgiving looms this week, it is well worth the time to read and reflect on the Thanksgiving proclamation issued by President Lincoln in October of 1863 — you can find it in its entirety here. In it Lincoln reflects on the ways the United States of America has prospered even in the midst of a civil war.
When I read the words of this proclamation I’m struck by how far we have veered from the spirit of Lincoln’s words. We have maintained the semblance of giving thanks. But what Lincoln called us to do over a century ago has devolved into merely a family gathering.
While inviting us to give thanks, the President also asked that we confess our wrongs, as he calls them our “national perverseness and disobedience.” He also urges us to remember those who have suffered because of the war which gripped our nation. I may give thought to those so-called “less fortunate” but I doubt that I give them the attention the day really calls me to give. The same can be said for my perverseness and disobedience.
As Thursday draws near, I will ponder Lincoln’s invitation to not only thank but also to confess and to remember. I will still eat my turkey and pumpkin pie. But maybe this year I will give more attention to the One Lincoln’s proclamation calls “our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the heavens.” And be grateful for His blessings and His undeserved but needed mercy for our nation and myself. I suspect I will be even more grateful if I heed and ponder these words from long ago.
C.S. Lewis in Mere Christianity begins by talking about the morphing of the term “gentleman” from a specific description to an almost useless compliment (if you are unfamiliar with Lewis’ argument take a quick peek here but come back). I fear at times that the same thing might be said of the word “hero.” I don’t often mention my near-cringe when I hear the term. It is used much in our day to talk about men and women who serve our country’s military. Many who serve and have served are heroes. I know that. But when everyone is a hero, no one is. Just like calling everyone a gentleman dilutes and ultimately destroys that word’s meaning.
This weekend is Veterans Day. I think about my paternal grandfather, John Robey Clark. He was twenty years older than Grandma so I never knew him. He served in Battery B of the Third Field Artillery of the Ohio National Guard which became the 136th Field Artillery during World War I. He served from July 21, 1917 to April 10, 1919 when he was honorably discharged as a private. Not a private first class. Not a medal to his name (that I can find). He came home and started life anew.
But he served faithfully and did his duty. He sacrificed two years of his life, much of it in the mud and muck and noise of France. He wasn’t really a hero. But he served as thousands and thousands of American men and women have – without reward or recognition, without drama or wounds.
I am grateful for those who served heroically… who sacrificed their lives for our freedoms and security and that of others… for the heroes whose stories inspire us still. But I am equally grateful for those veterans like Grandpa Clark who served well and did their duty. Our greatness is built as much upon their quiet, even boring sacrifices as upon those who gave their all. May we serve in peace and war as faithfully.
Thanks to all this week before Veterans Day!
Today I am sitting in my office which also happens to be in the building where I and my neighbors vote. It is not yet 8:00 AM and already there have been lines to get in the door.
I have no idea who will win which races today. Who but God does. But I am awed by the miraculous nature of our election process. Think about it – in all of our nation’s history, no one has taken power through a violent revolution. No one has come to be the President because he showed up at the White House with his army. Even in the midst of the American Civil War, people voted. When the armies of the North and South battled for their causes the ballot box triumphed because it was open.
Is our system perfect? Nothing near. Are there real divisions about what best serves our country’s interests? Yes. (Although the differences among our leaders and parties are so very slight compared to the breadth of political perspectives in other places.). There will be questions in the days to come – count on it. There will be court challenges to processes and procedures and even results.
But today, the majority of Americans who will vote drive or walk to a polling place to cast their ballots. They will participate in what is one of our civic sacraments in America. Whoever wins each and every race today will be the right person because the American people chose her or him to represent and serve. Perhaps that matters more than who wins?
On Tuesday I was in a meeting where we ended our day by sharing out loud what hadn’t changed after Hurricane Sandy. It was great to remember what is enduring in the light of the storm and its aftermath. It got me thinking about next week’s election.
On Tuesday someone will be elected President of the United States – it will be either Barack Obama or Mitt Romney. And today it looks like it is going to be close regardless of who wins the vote. But will it matter????? Oh I know some reading this will argue strenuously that it does. I suppose they are right. I am glad, for instance, that Abraham Lincoln was elected when he was.
But does it really matter? Someone will win and he will be inaugurated in January. Whoever ends up president, there will be changes of policy. While there has been some discussion about postponing the election it seems unlikely that will happen either. America will go on. And those of us living here will continue to live in a land of opportunity and plenty (despite what both sides want us to believe to the contrary).
No matter who is elected next week, God is still sovereign. The age-old affirmation “Jesus is Lord!” is still true. The Holy Spirit has gone out into all the earth and will not be recalled because one man or the other wins the race. All Saints Day, which was the day before I post this entry, reminds us that not even death can overturn God’s purposes for us. Surely a single election cycle has even less power to overrule God’s grace and mercy.
I hope you will vote on Tuesday and, I believe, your vote matters. But on Wednesday morning God will still be working, Christ will still be alive, and God’s Spirit will be waiting as always for us to join in God’s great work.