As Christmas approaches, I tend to think about world affairs in terms of the Christian values I grew up believing.  I look back over the year, and forward to the next year.  I even make some predictions, not of the wheeooooeee type, but based on my analysis of events and conditions in society and in the world.


I read this morning that Ireland has mailed letters to about 6000 unemployed Irish, asking them to move to other EU nations.  This strikes me as wrong on at least two fronts.  The first is that as a Catholic nation, which prohibits birth control, the nation helped create the long term unemployed and owes them better than asking them to leave their home.  The second is that the other EU nations have their own unemployment problems and might not welcome 6000 unemployed immigrants.


The day before I had read that Google (or amazon) was looking to replace clerks with robots.  Prior to this, I have read pieces saying that we will now permanently have a higher rate of unemployment.  I have also read that those  who have been unemployed longer than six months are now considered unemployable.  My Christian values tell me that if society cannot offer people jobs, it should, at a minimum, leave them their dignity, and provide them with life's necessities.  This has made the Christian right's position of blaming the unemployed for their condition, and blaming it on laziness and unwillingness to work, simply unfathomable and immoral.


Love, and charity, Jesus himself, require us to treat the unemployables with respect, and dignity, not scorn and the cloak of invisibility that descends when we assume people "don't want to work."  Honestly, how many of us can say that we would keep looking for a job after we are told by agencies and employers that we have been unemployed too long to be considered?  With dwindling financial reserves, how much would any of us continue to expend on transportation, clothing expenses (even if just cleaning and pressing), printing up and sending out resumes?   Who do you think an employer would hire -- a 32 year old with children, or someone in their late forties or early fifties with health issues?


Do we just toss people away, like disposable coffee cups and razors?  Do we just say "I'll pray for you?'  When we say it, how often do we actually pray for a solution to the suffering and the stress?  Once? Daily until we hear the person's situation has improved?


Into this walks Pope Francis, who is the first Pope since I became conscious of the existence of a Pope, which was the installation of Pope John XXII, who walks and talks as I imagine Jesus did, or close to it.  What does the Christian Right do?  Attack him as "communist" like "Obama."  I heard someone mention that Pope Francis was not even born in the United States!  Hmm, I'm not Catholic, and I know that NONE of them throughout history were born in the United States.  So how is that a relevant comment?  Is it just a stupid one?
 
 
Another of my FB friends posted one of those "Christmas begins with Christ"  from "Keeping Christ in Christmas."   First, we will ignore that the earliest recorded mention of Christmas was from a monk in 354 who noted that December 25 was established as the birth of Christ in 336 AD.Then we shall ignore that ALL of what we consider Christmas traditions come from pagan traditions.  Well, not quite all, the Roman tradition of Saturnalia included gifts to the poor, not to one's self and one's family.


Instead we shall focus on who Christ was and what His Lessons to us were.  He came to let us know His Father loved us so much He would sacrifice His only son for us.  He came to give us His Father's Commandments for life.He also came to tell us we can be forgiven for our sins. 


He opened hearts when He fed the multitudes. Now don't argue with me about how He did it.  Sure, the son of God was perfectly capable of materializing loaves and fishes out of the air.  Isn't the greater miracle that He touched the hearts of regular old human beings, whose natural tendency is toward making sure they get theirs first?  What a miracle that baskets could pass through the crowd and the people were so moved by Christ's presence that they freely placed into those baskets the fish and bread they had intended to feed themselves and their families, so that all present might eat?  Where is the lesson for mankind in a magical production of  loaves and fishes?  Normal human beings cannot do that!  Only the Son of God!  However, normal men can realize that they can manifest the love Christ showed every day, by releasing greed from their hearts, and sharing their wealth with others, as He himself did every day.  What a miracle that they could do as Christ did!


 He accepted sinners as companions, including prostitutes.  "Go," He says "and sin no more."  He admonished those who asked why He allowed such people into His company.  He says, instead, that those who are without sin should cast the first stones.  Of course, nobody is qualified, as humans are all sinners.  Who are we to talk about who is sinning, committing abominations?  Who are we to chide them constantly about their sins?  We are told to judge not.  Jesus or His Father, can ask people not to sin any more.  

So let all those of us who call themselves Christians, put Christ INTO Christmas.  If you are going spend yourselves into debt with your credit cards, do it not for yourself and your family, but for those who have nothing. Give of yourself by working at one of the many Christmas dinners for the homeless, the poor, the people who lost their homes in Sandy, and who are still struggling in New Orleans.Spend the day at a local nursing home or rehabilitation or veterans facility.  Have a neighbor who is coping with a terminally ill family member?  Give them a break, raise their spirits.  Take that fabulous meal to them.  

Above all, teach your children there is worth in everyone:  rich or poor, white or not, young or old, conservative or liberal, church-goer or not.  Jesus told us the Kingdom of God is within.  God is Love.  It is within us all.  We have only to let it shine.

And now I will share with you my favorite non-Biblical Christmas story.  O. Henry's The Gift of the Magi.