You have more chance of being struck by lightning on your birthday than of dying in a terror attack. 1
I didn’t plan to write about a bunch of serious stuff this time, but I couldn’t pass up that factlet. But seriously now, are you ready for Christmas? I’ve been hearing that question everywhere. In Germany, where Tannenbaums are getting decorated and the refugees are trying to…
Oh, yeah. I forgot. No serious stuff. Christmas. Here’s a Christmas headline.
Refugees Fleeing Violence in Syria Confront Dire Conditions in Bulgaria
“Escaping war and running for their lives, Syrians are overwhelming the poorest country in the European Union. Bulgaria is all the way across the breadth of Turkey from Syria, a thousand miles! Are they desperate? Well, yes. That’s war, don’t you know? Damn them there, damn them here. War is hell, Christmas or not.” 2
Now we read that the Bulgarian border police are making it even harder for the refugees, beating and robbing them before sending them limping back to the Turkish border. 3 And here, of course, some would like to Trump that kind of treatment with tough-guy talk, essentially wishing the problem away.
I learned the other night that Colorado takes in 2,000 war refugees a year for resettlement. The number may go as high as 2,500 in the next few years, as what we’re hearing about now in Europe starts to increase its spillover here. (The selection and screening process typically takes two years for the US, compared with the “C’mon in!” policy of Germany, Austria, Scotland and others.) Denver has two agencies that handle the work, Lutheran Family Services and the African Community Center. The latter group, by the way, works with people from all over; their name is rooted in earlier times. The people who work in places like these brighten the holidays for a lot of people.
This Christmas, I praise and appreciate those who help those in need to stay out of the cold. People who run programs and shelters for the homeless, soup line people, volunteers distributing winter coats from musty church basements. Then there are workers and caregivers in hospitals, clinics, social services centers. A friend is a social worker in a dialysis center, of all places. She saves lives and gives hope. There are so many who do the angels’ work, not just at Christmas. But Christmas it is. Sing along with me now…
Good King Wenceslas looked out
On the feast of Stephen
When the snow lay round about
Deep and crisp and even.
Brightly shone the moon that night
Though the frost was cruel
When a poor man came in sight
Gath’ring winter fuel.
(Remember, fyoo-OOO-ell. Ha! Now to the ending.)
Therefore, Christian men, be sure
Wealth or rank possessing
Ye who now will bless the poor
Shall yourselves find blessing.
That thing about blessings coming back to those who give of themselves: I’m not sure we made a big point of that when we sang about good old King Pretzelsauce in grade school. It’s a thought, though. It should work for people who are not Christian men as well. For my Christian friends, it is good to remember that everything Jesus did in his ministry pointed toward peace. Peace is a concept held as an ideal. Christmas reminds us to address our cognitive dissonance, the difference between Peace on earth and mercy mild and the realities of cold streets with homeless sleeping under cardboard; war refugees living in tents out in the snow; hardened hearts living in fear of terrorists. 4 It is not only hope, but also deeds that sustain good — and peace — in the world.
I like the carol, O Holy Night. The big dramatic moment comes with the phrase, “Fall on your knees!” I think the strongest part of the message, though, is in the seldom-heard final stanza:
Truly He taught us to love one another;
His law is love and His Gospel is peace.
Chains shall He break for the slave is our brother
And in His name all oppression shall cease.
Now there’s a thought.
- The world of threats to the US is an illusion, Stephen Kinzer, The Boston Globe, 12 Apr 2015
- Ghosts, Dec 2013
- Bulgarian Border Police Accused of Abusing Refugees, Rick Lymandec, The New York Times, 23 Dec 2015
- The Terrorism Statistics Every American Needs to Hear, Global Research, 23 Oct 2015