“Seven O’clock News”
The Rev. Leonard B. Oakes
Merry Christmas!! Have you had a wonderful Christmas Eve with your family? Last night’s Christmas Eve celebration here at church was a meaningful one for those who came. At 7:00 o’clock, the Pageant casts were ready and eager to show what they had been practicing for weeks. Everyone greeted each other merry Christmas. Hugs and kisses here and there. Then we arrived at the Eucharist where we sang silent night. That song sung by the community still rings in my ears, and the wonderful feeling of togetherness is still warm in my heart.
Every Christmas time, I remember a song from Simon and Garfunkel as I sing most of their songs, but this one caught my attention on the reality behind a wonderful song called “Seven O’clock News / Silent Night.” It begins with the beautiful tones of “Silent Night” being played on a piano as Simon and Garfunkel sing. But very slowly and barely heard, the sound of a reporter reporting the news comes in. At first it is in the background but then by the end you can’t hear the song and all you hear is the news reports about Vietnam, riots, unrest, murder and poverty.
At 7 O’clock this morning, I was reminded of the tragedy in the southern part of the Philippines brought by typhoon Sendong which left thousands of families homeless and thousands dead and missing. There is yet a miracle that we can do while we sing our Silent Night, amidst the news and the mess and the unplanned events. God is calling us to extend the miracle of giving to those who are now having no inn to knock on, a roof and water and blankets to have. The Diocese of Cagayan De Oro, of the Philippine Independent Church who is full communion with the Episcopal Church in the USA is appealing for our help. Whatever miracle we can share is our message of Christmas to the world.
You know sometimes we get lost among the candles and decorations and angels singing. All seems so bright and wonderful in the Christmas season. “All is calm, all is bright” and we forget. We forget the real world, the place beyond the carols where people are sick and in pain and emotionally distressed. People who lost their homes and those who are about to lose them; mothers who just lost their babies and love ones.
Preachers focus on God coming into the world. We tell of and sing of angels from the realms of glory coming to earth. We speak of the Son of God the King of Kings coming from heaven to earth. We paint idealized images of Mary and Joseph and babe lying is a manger amidst the friendly beasts. And angels hover over their heads while shepherds and wise men come to worship a child as the anointed one of God. But we get lost in the story and forget that Jesus came in to the world. He came into a real world, a world full of poverty and injustice, a world full of sin and sickness and death. He came into a real world not some idealized image of the world. He became a part of a world of darkness and pain. He came in the midst of chaos and selfishness. He came where people were caught unaware.
In the Telegraph newspaper, Martin Beckford, editor on religious affairs reported the Archbishop of Canterbury Dr. Rowan Williams defending his comment on Christmas reality, “Have a messy Christmas.” “It is not worth worrying about trying to have a perfect Christmas” The Archbishop said, “as even the events of the nativity story were unplanned.” Dr Rowan Williams said further that many families start each Christmas season with good intentions, such as writing cards weeks in advance and arranging every detail of the turkey dinner. But their preparations often descend into “the usual mess” and a “last-minute panic”, with the problems made worse this year in many homes by worries about how to pay for it all.
The Archbishop, reassured listeners that it is unnecessary to strive for a perfect Christmas, as Mary and Joseph themselves were in the midst of chaos when Jesus was born. “The story of the first Christmas is the story of a series of completely unplanned, messy events – a surprise pregnancy, an unexpected journey that’s got to be made, a complete muddle over the hotel accommodation when you get there…Not exactly a perfect holiday.”
He went on: “It tells us something really vital. We try to plan all this stuff and stay in charge, and too often we think that unless we can cook the perfect dinner, plan the perfect wedding, organize the perfect Christmas, we somehow don’t really count or we can’t hold our heads up.”
While I agree with the Archbishop’s intention, I would say that in the Filipino and Latino community, we do Christmas celebrations amidst hardship but do not worry about how to pay it all. It has become a culture among these people to share whatever there is available; food, Lechon, going from house to house. What mostly matters is the miracle of sharing the spirit of giving, loving and being one community. Although Archbishop’s comment “it is unnecessary to strive for a perfect Christmas” do not necessarily share my view, I say it is necessary for us to strive for a better Christmas and be reminded of something or someone expected to come and make it better every time we do them. Otherwise Advent season becomes unnecessary to prepare. It becomes a reminder for us to do just like in the Eucharist when Jesus said, “Do this as often as you can, in remembrance of me” The Christmas story has to be made alive every so often to remind us our preparation for the second coming of Christ and be always on the tract of the miracle of sharing the spirit of love and giving in the here and now.
Let us not forget the angels and that some saw a miracle. Common everyday real world shepherd trying to feed their families left the flocks in the field to see the thing that the angels told them about. And let’s remember how they went and told everyone all that they had seen and heard. And it says that people were amazed. Even Mary pondered these things in her heart. Of course they were amazed. It isn’t everyday that you hear angels and see light from heaven and find God lying in a manger crying. This is not real world stuff. This is something from another dimension and other realm. And so all were amazed at what the shepherds told them. Jesus came to bring life and light for all people. Santo Nino the baby Jesus is in our hearts and in this community bringing light and life to all.
We will sing silent night at the Eucharist and conclude with go tell it on the mountain as we walk into the reality of seven o’clock news every day.
May you all have a blessed Christmas and a joyous New Year!!!