Tuesday, December 20, 2016

“I think commercialism helps Christmas and I think that the more capitalism we can inject into the Christmas holiday and the more money we can spend makes it so much more spiritual. ” ― Craig Ferguson

     It was 1962, and I was just sixteen years old.  I was naive and had no reason to question anything.  If lots of other people were doing things—well, it just must be right.  It wouldn’t be long before lots of and lots of things would be questioned because just one year later President Kennedy would be assassinated and then would come the civil rights movement, the Viet Nam war, the assassinations of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and then Bobby Kennedy.  My perfect little world would be so shaken it would never be the same again, but not in 1962, not yet, not for me.  Then, as Christmas approached that year, I read a poem written in 1958 by a beatnik (there were no hippies, yet) named Lawrence Ferlinghetti.  It challenged so many of the things I thought were just natural and right for Christmas, and it made me question, for the first time, if maybe Christ wouldn’t be happy with how we were celebrating His birth.  I don’t think the poem has lost much of its punch over the years, and it may still shock some of you, but it is worth reading again over half a century later.  This changed me and my perceptions of Christianity forever and set me on a life long quest of finding out what it was that Christ really wanted of me.  I think I finally know, but this is what started my journey to Africa.  Here it is, as it was written. 

Christ Climbed Down, by Lawrence Ferlinghetti, 1958

Christ climbed down
from His bare Tree
this year
and ran away to where
there were no rootless Christmas trees
hung with candy canes and breakable stars

Christ climbed down
from His bare Tree
this year and ran away to where
there were no gilded Christmas trees
and no tinsel Christmas trees
and no tinfoil Christmas trees
and no pink plastic Christmas trees
and no gold Christmas trees
and no black Christmas trees
and no powder blue Christmas trees
hung with electric candles
and encircled by tin electric trains
and clever cornball relatives

Christ climbed down
from His bare Tree
this year
and ran away to where
no intrepid Bible salesmen
covered the territory
in two-tone Cadillacs
and where no Sears Roebuck creches
complete with plastic babe in manger
arrived by parcel post
the babe by special delivery
and where no televised Wise Men
praised the Lord Calvert Whiskey

Christ climbed down
from His bare Tree
this year
and ran away to where
no fat handshaking stranger
in a red flannel suit
and a fake white beard
went around passing himself off
as some sort of North Pole saint
crossing the desert to Bethlehem
Pennsylvania
in a Volkswagen sled
drawn by rollicking Adirondack reindeer
with German names
and bearing sacks of Humble Gifts
from Saks Fifth Avenue
for everybody’s imagined Christ child

Christ climbed down
from His bare Tree
this year
and ran away to where
no Bing Crosby carollers
groaned of a tight Christmas
and where no Radio City angels
ice skated wingless
thru a winter wonderland
into a jingle bell heaven
daily at 8:30
with Midnight Mass matinees

Christ climbed down
from His bare Tree
this year
and softly stole away into
some anonymous Mary’s womb again
where in the darkest night
of everybody’s anonymous soul
He awaits again
an unimaginable
and impossibly
Immaculate Reconception
the very craziest of Second Comings
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