It’s Christmas Eve as I write this and I’m in an unusual frame of mind. I can best describe my mood as peaceful and grateful but with an undercurrent of unease permeating my emotional landscape.
I’m not a traditional kind of Christian. Over the last 20 years or so, I’ve morphed into what might be best described as an ethical Christian. Don’t buy into the heaven and hell stuff but believe strongly that the teachings and life of Jesus are a shining and unique example of how people should live.
The meaning of Christmas and the feelings it brings for many of us are still a very big deal for me. It gives me a real feeling of hope for weeks leading up the Christmas Day itself. I typically walk around feeling that peace-and-goodwill-to-men sentiment pretty strongly, with carols playing in my head all the while.
But this year, it’s different.
This year, there is a dark, ominous cloud hanging over those tidings of great joy.
It seems so foreboding that as we celebrate the coming of God’s divine life living among us, our National life is being sullied and our collective peace has been torn apart by a hateful and dangerous demagogue.
The peace and goodwill part of the Christmas message rings hollow with a hateful and ego-driven man whose creed in life is to hit back ten times harder if offended or slighted purporting to lead our country.
A man who lashes out with fury and vitriol at any perceived offense or even when someone simply fails to sufficiently stoke his ego or sing his praises.
Reading of daily outbursts of that sort at this formerly-glorious time of year does tend to spoil the happy remembrances of the angels’ song. I’m not hearing that hope-filled message of the Christ-child coming to earth, being born of a simple, humble maiden.
The angels, shepherds, oxen and lamb keep the sacred, awe-filled vigil as… as the rage-filled, spiteful, revenge-obsessed man-baby plots to sew more chaos throughout his kingdom and to silence and humiliate the critics, the non-believers who recoil from his twisted message or dare to resist his reign of vitriol and hate.
The story of the divine child in the manger is crowded out by the advent of this modern-day Herod who forces the infant to prematurely flee to Egypt, with Mary and Joseph cutting short their sojourn in the sacred stable, riding away on the ox that witnessed the Holy Nativity.
In my heart-of-hearts, I can’t see the Divine One swaddled and laying peacefully in that humble altar of wood and straw; I can’t hear the Christmas message of the word-made-flesh; I cannot feel the dawning of a new era of peace, hope and reconciliation.
I can only feel the hot breath of hate, the elevation of cruelty to the highest stratum of heaven and the gathering of the sinister storm which will pull the curtains from the temple, exile the children of promise and sully every teaching, every precept of goodwill, righteousness and reconciliation.
This Christmas is different. This Christmas is filled with a sense of fear and foreboding. This Christmas is sullied by selfishness and scorn; despoiled by a new advent of greed and cruelty.
This year the hopeful message of Christmas is drowned out by the droning of a baleful message of division, heartlessness and hate.
Child of the manger, deliver us from this darkness and despair! Grant a new dawn of hope among all people of goodwill, all who still listen to hear the angels’ song!
Ben Lawrence Basile
© 2018 Benjamin Basile
Featured artwork by Dona Gelsinger.