Why won’t Christmas last?
It’s such a pleasant season. Family. Friends. Gift-giving. Glad tidings of great joy, etc.
Can’t we parlay at least some of those glad tidings into making progress on the promise of, say, peace on Earth?
Too much of an overreach?
OK. How about peace in the country?
The city? The neighborhood? The car?
Dan Edwards, the bishop of the Nevada Episcopal Diocese, explains the season’s apparent disconnect this way in his 2011 Christmas letter:
“The great Eastern theologians taught that the Incarnation itself was part and parcel of our redemption and salvation. God in taking on human nature changes it; sanctifies our very being. By entering more deeply into our world, God makes it holy. …
“Human life becomes God’s life; God’s life becomes human. The temporal is imbued with the eternal. …
“Can we really believe that something important has happened when so much still seems so wrong in our world? Christians have never claimed that the power of sin in the world is already vanquished. The fulfillment of our hope lies beyond the reach of our mortal lives and beyond the reach of unfolding history. St. Paul tells us that this world is still under the sway of ‘the powers and the principalities of this present age.’
“C.S. Lewis says our world is ‘in enemy hands.’ But the end of the story has changed and we are given a foretaste of our destiny in the joy of Christmas. In a novel, the meaning of each chapter depends on how the book comes out. All our present delights and regrets, successes and failures, take on their meaning from a story; the story of our lives, the story of human history, the story of the whole cosmos has been decisively changed.
“At Christmas, we touch holiness. More than that, we are touched by holiness.”
Fair enough. There are bigger forces at work in this world and, theologically, the Christian hope “lies beyond the reach of our mortal lives.” However, may I nonetheless humbly add an ink-stained wretch’s 2 cents to the Christmas enigma?
There’s a scene in the 1991 movie “The Fisher King” in which Parry, a homeless man played by Robin Williams, is severely beaten into a catatonic state.
His friend Jack, played by Jeff Bridges, is a self-absorbed man who desperately seeks relief from his own demons. Jack visits Parry in the hospital. In terms of the big medical picture, Jack is helpless. But he notices one of Parry’s lesser wounds bleeding through the bandage. Jack re-dresses it.
In doing so, Jack moves to more substantial acts of kindness and, in the end, farther along the road to his own redemption.
The title “The Fisher King” and the plot stem from a re-telling of the 13th century tale about the suffering Fisher King and Perceval, the simple-minded knight in search of the Holy Grail.
Maybe we’re over-thinking the Holy Grail thing. In “The Fisher King,” Parry said there are only three things in the world you need: “Respect for all kinds of life, a nice bowel movement on a regular basis, and a navy blazer.”
What if our Arthurian Christmas quest for 2012 were simply to alleviate suffering when it is directly within our power, even in the smallest acts of kindness?
To feed the hungry where you find them for no other reason than they were hungry? Give water to the thirsty. Soothe the poor in spirit, and perhaps find the light at the end of your own tunnel.
People might call us foolish, but we’d have our navy blazers to protect us.
Sherman Frederick, former publisher of the Las Vegas Review-Journal, writes a column for Stephens Media. Read his blog at www.lvrj.com/blogs/sherm.