Counting Down (Christmas Eve): “Still We Try to Listen”

[Read the introduction to this series of “Counting Down” posts here.]

The lamplit streets of Bethlehem we walk now through the night. There is no peace in Bethlehem; there is no peace in sight. The wounds of generations, almost too deep to heal, scar the timeworn miracle, and make it seem surreal…*

It’s easy to get stuck, to think things are the way they are and there’s nothing we can do about it. It’s easy to make excuses and say that things can’t be different because we’re human or we’re depraved or both. Or they can’t be different because there aren’t any better options and we’ve gotta work with what we’ve got.

It won’t surprise anyone to find out that I just don’t buy it. Call me naive, but today, this day just before Christmas, I can’t help but think that those excuses are not what the liturgical year teaches us.

I was visiting with a friend recently and I was talking about this YouTube clip I’d watched about capitalism. Though I’m no economist, I was telling my friend, the whole concept of capitalism as an economic system, to some extent, requires that somebody somewhere get exploited. You can’t just make endless profit. You can’t just make something out of nothing. (I’m sure I was going on much too long as I ranted about this.) So my friend looks at me and says, quite simply, “Well, what’s your suggestion then? What’s a better system?” Some of you are probably thinking that, too. And you’re also wondering why I ever decided to write about this today of all days.

Well, friends. It’s Christmas Eve. There is a better way. I don’t have all of the answers, not even close, and I’m not sure what it needs to look like but, quite frankly, I’m tired of hearing arguments about how it’s just not practical. We aren’t stuck. Not now, not ever.

Head on over to the manger.

There’s nothing practical about it.

…The baby in the manger grew to a man one day. Still we try to listen now to what he had to say: ‘Put up your swords forever. Forgive your enemies. Love your neighbor as yourself. Let your little children come to me.’

* from “Little Town,” off Over the Rhine’s holiday album, Snow Angels