Sunday, December 23, 2012

Christmas 2012

There is a special sadness and poignancy to Christmas this year.  In this country, the recent massacre of small school children in Connecticut casts a very dark shadow over one of the two most important feast days in the Christian religious calendar; Christmas when every child is the Christ Child.

We cannot help but remember those children, the 20 who died so horribly, together with 6 of their teachers and staff.  I'm puzzled as to why the first victim of the shooting rampage, Nancy Lanza, the murderer's mother, is not included in the tally of victims.  Perhaps it is in our nature to always second guess parents of the infamous, but all the accounts from witnesses describe a loving and conscientious mother.

As our favorite atheist, IT points out on her blog, if we Christians really believe what we claim about God's love being infinite and all powerful, then we would include Adam Lanza in our prayers for the dead.  We don't know what drove him to do this horrible thing.  We may never know.  There might not even be a "why."  But whatever the case, we proclaim that nothing can separate us from God's love, not even crime and evil.  Why should we be so stingy with something that God gives out so prodigally?

May this horrible event make us mindful this Christmas of the millions of children in this country and around the world who know violence, exploitation, neglect, and scorn as daily companions.

God, according to our Gospels, did not come into this world in any glorious theophany as irresistible destiny.  Who knows if there is anything literally true about the Gospel birth narratives (not much I would guess).  But the accounts of His birth tell us just what kind of messiah this was to be.  He was definitely not the radiant all-powerful champion on a fiery horse riding out of the sky who will set everything right that we all expect and we all want.
The Son of God was born in scandal and destitution, on the run with a price on His head, in a small country under foreign occupation.  God entered the world as a helpless infant who needed to be fed, kept warm, and cleaned just like all infants.  Our disappointment says more about us than about Him.

As I do every year, I post my 2 favorite Christmas hymns:

A Blessed Christmas, a Happy Holiday, and Best Wishes for a Happy, Peaceful, and Prosperous New Year to all of my readers.

The Portinari Altarpiece, painted by Hugo Van Der Goes around 1475 for an agent of the Medici banking interests in Bruges, Tommaso Portinari who appears in the left panel;  Van Der Goes was a monk in a monastery near Brussels, and is recorded to have suffered severe and even suicidal depression in the course of his life.  The painting arrived in Florence in 1483, about the time that Van Der Goes died.  It was installed over the altar of the church of San Egidio.  The painting created a sensation and was widely praised and imitated by late 15th century Florentine painters.
What is so striking about this painting is that The Virgin Mary, the angels, the shepherds, and even the Portinari family with their patron saints, stand together in the same circle as equals before the newborn Christ.


JCF said...

[My priest this morning listed Nancy Lanza (at the intercessions), but left out Adam. I added him myself, sotto voce.]

Merry Christmas, Doug, and to all at CP's.

M.McShea said...

Thank you for sharing with a stranger - your very soul lifting artwork and music, sacred and secular(profane) in keeping with the season.
I do think that Nancy Lanza was remembered as a victim in the placement of the 27 wooden angels on a hill in Newtown now strewn with flowers and cards and teddy bears.
Some have reported the number 26 which is to say that some do not count or others assume that Nancy be not included in the town's mourning. Any man or woman's death diminishes us for we are all part of mankind.

Unknown said...

Loving the very unloveable is the hardest thing - but if we believe that must be taken. (Often in a step of faith rather than assurance.)