ON THE CORNER
BY ROBERT DOCTER –
Glistening icicles hang from snowless eaves with brilliant lights. Tall evergreens spring from hardwood floors, bedecked with garlands of green amidst baubles and berries. A cutting from a parasitic shrub with thick green leaves and small white flowers hangs beneath the rafters and door jambs to legitimize an ancient custom of stealing kisses from unsuspecting yet inviting maidens. And around the hearth, no smell of burning pine or birch or walnut fill the room as the gas log, all but ignored, fires its clay and sheds its own unmistakable odor. People seem bent on celebration but twisted in their effort to remember why.
Heated talk invades the room when the glass tube of colored shadows becomes blessedly still. The word mute flashes across its face. Still, no one speaks of shepherds on hillsides or angel choirs announcing a birth in Bethlehem. No one talks of dramatic change taking place in mankind’s struggle to relate to God. There is no silence in this noisy night–just arguments about a vote count in Florida.
Within the room all have cast their ballots days ago on behalf of particular candidates for the office of President of the United States. All are loyal to their candidate. Their minds are made up. But the final count is so close that even a very few changes in the ballot count will decide a different winner in the state and a different person elected President. One candidate argues that some of the ballots bear votes not yet counted by the machines. The other replies that the election is over and claims the victory. The nation is confused, and people showing no emotion earlier in the selection of their choice for the office now become loudly passionate in their hyperbole of rhetoric advancing arguments surrounding issues over which they know nothing. They attend carefully to the media circus of opinionaires specifically to learn more arguments to scream in support of their cause.
In order to generate increased audience, some soothsayers on the tube of ignorance say almost anything. Strident voices speak of gloom and doom. Crisis seems unavoidable, Christ, unnoticeable. His name is heard only as an oath.
Is this the “peace” he promised?
He promised to bring “peace to men of good will”–i.e. those among us whose desires are principled in a positive manner. There is no peace for those whose desires are unprincipled.
In ritual, we slowly count down the advent Sundays, but it is not the date of December 25th on which we concentrate. Instead, our minds focus one week earlier, on December 18th, the deadline for electors to cast their ballots in the nation’s capital for a new, as yet undetermined president.
The arguments within the room roil on. The hostility elevates. And where is the Christ child in all of this? Listen!
Outside, on the street, Christmas carols sung on youthful voices and played by instruments of brass with distinctive sounds that can mean only a Salvation Army group. The television continues to blast out its ignorance but is ignored. People in the room smile at one another and file together quickly toward the door–now open as songs of hope and peace and joy and love radiate through the house. And with the music, the mood changes and spirits sense a new spirit. Christ is there.
His good will permeates our hearts and minds as we open ourselves to the true spirit of Christmas. Listen–the carol sings its message of an inn’s closed doors and offers a personal promise of room in our hearts for him who came to save the world.
Even the icicles seem brighter–the tree more beautiful–the mistletoe more ceremonial–the gas log more attractive. Yes, Virginia, the Army has an important role at Christmas. We’re the people who remind all why we celebrate.
It’s about the only time we send messages to people from a street corner all year long.