Saturday, December 24, 2011

A Different Kind of Christmas Song

For 23 years, this song has been as much a part of my Christmas as any of the classic carols.

Christmas Eve at my church probably shares much in common with the service at other UU churches: It is, first of all, an amalgam that blends the Winter Solstice, Hanukkah, and the Christmas Story itself into one grand festival of light. Yet even with that characteristically Unitarian Universalist syncretism, it is one time (not the only one necessarily) when we happily read familiar tales from the Bible and without apology invoke the names of God and Jesus.

Most years, our minister takes the pulpit in the guise of one who was there on that Bethlehem night of legend 2,000 years ago. He's been a shepherd, one of the Magi, Jesus's cousin John, an angel, and, I think, even the innkeeper. Some roles he's played more than once. In 1990, as American troops gathered in Kuwait to launch the invasion that would become the First Gulf War, he spoke as a Roman centurion. And in whatever persona he adopts to retell the story, I find myself moved beyond measure, my eyes welling with tears of comfort.

Tonight, he was Joseph. (In case you were wondering, he firmly pointed out that he was Jesus's real father -- despite the stories that later made it into the Bible.) He told of how much he learned to be a parent from his son, and how hearing not only the local shepherds, but even visiting astrologers from afar, speak of the promise that the infant represented made him see his own child differently -- an attitude that he recommended to parents everywhere.

When the message is over, and after we sing "Silent Night" with the traditional words, then comes another musical tradition. For reasons that I don't really know, we always close the service with a song that doesn't mention Christmas anywhere in its lyrics, a song sung by a little green frog with a banjo and a nasal voice.

It was an odd touch, I thought, the first time I experienced it more than two decades ago -- odd, and yet somehow perfect in its reflection of the hope and mystery and promise of Christmas. Now I have trouble imagining the night before Christmas without it.

When the older DairyStateKid was less than 6 months old, I began singing it to him every night as a lullaby. And the tradition continued when his younger brother came along five years later.

Tonight, we all went to church: The two DairyStateKids, their stepmother DairyStateMom, the older DSK's Buddhist girlfriend, and me. We heard the stories, basked in the warmth of the candlelight, sang the old familiar carols, and then joined together in this song.

Later, as he lay in bed in the darkness of his room waiting for the sleep that will bring Christmas Morning, the younger DairyStateKid, who will be 15 in one month, asked me to sing the first verse one more time. Of course I did.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Searching for My Voice

More than a year ago I began a series of posts on politics. After the 2010 elections, I got stalled.

The reasons were many: family responsibilities, my struggle to manage a growing an overwhelming workload, but also an emotional paralysis that arose from the events that unfolded in my home state and in the nation over the last year.

I knew what I wanted to say, sort of, but I couldn't find the words or make the time to lay it all out.

Today I read this article in Yes! magazine. It comes as close as anything I have found to articulating where I have been moving, spiritually and politically, in recent years:
I participated because I have witnessed overwhelming evidence that the economic and political systems of my country stand against those people who the God I worship stands for. My conception of God, inadequate as it may be, is better described as the Love that generates creativity and community than as a super-man judging us from some heavenly skybox. Such a Love contrasts with everything that reserves power, dignity, wealth, or the status of full humanity for some while denying these things to others. My commitment to Love requires me to challenge the increasing consolidation of all these good things in the hands of a few, and to collaborate for the creation of something that Love would recognize as kin.
Read the whole thing here.

ETA: I'm not commenting here so much on the specifics of the Seattle event that the YES contributor referred to. Christine, in the comments, makes some good points about that. I'm speaking rather of the overarching spiritual and political point of view from which the writer comes, and to which he speaks.

Now, where this leads me day to day remains, for now, unclear.

I don't think it leads me out of either of my spiritual homes. It does sharpen my longing to live in both of them, together, more fully.

I don't know what it might imply for my professional life of 30-plus years or for the direction it might take going forward. That's a particular challenge because, given my very real life circumstances and responsibilities, I don't see the sort of freedom that might allow me to simply abandon my livelihood as it is now.

I almost didn't bother to write this post. As I said, I've been trying to put into words, for a very long time now, a collection of experiences, feelings, beliefs, yearnings, resolutions that are still too inarticulate for me to be able to put down on paper or keyboard. I'm not there yet, so what's the point in writing anything?

But I guess I have to start somewhere. So let it be here.

Oh yes, and Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Joyous Kwanzaa, and a Happy 2012 to all.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

A retired, Southern police officer writes about #OWS

...and what he says might surprise you. (h/t, The Rev. John Shuck)

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Isn't This What We're Here For?

In the New York Times, Eric Weiner writes:
We need a Steve Jobs of religion. Someone (or ones) who can invent not a new religion but, rather, a new way of being religious. Like Mr. Jobs’s creations, this new way would be straightforward and unencumbered and absolutely intuitive. Most important, it would be highly interactive. I imagine a religious space that celebrates doubt, encourages experimentation and allows one to utter the word God without embarrassment. A religious operating system for the Nones among us. And for all of us.
Surely this is where Unitarian Universalism fits in today. Or has the potential to. At least that's how I've always seen it -- and it's what drew me to, and keeps me in, this religious movement.

But, if it doesn't, why doesn't it?