Our Christmas letter from 2001: From the fury of the Norsemen, Good Lord deliver us

This is not a good year for Christmas letters. Nancy has been talking about getting it written for the past month. I told her my only criteria is that it does not mention Sept 11. Well, it is Dec 9 and not a drop of ink has been laid. I thought I would take a stab at it but cannot find family news that is out of the shadow of world events. I decided to bring the boat about and try a different tack. If we cannot avoid a topic then draw from it: How have we changed?

We pay more attention in church. Like most churches, ours has been addressing the topic regularly. Yet finding answers has been hard. The first Sunday after September 11 our Rector noted a lack of specific available texts - Frank Wade: "I became aware of something that I had never realized before. Our Prayer Book with all of its prayers, Eucharists and services fashioned over the centuries did not have anything that was an adequate response to an experience of evil on the scale of Tuesday's attacks. The first prayer ever written in English included the lines: "From the fury of the Norsemen, Good Lord deliver us." Fury means madness. During the plague years there were prayers about evil in the form of illness. But over recent years we quit praying about madness, tragedy and terror on this scale and allowed ourselves to think only of individual badness and community injustice." This sums up much of our feelings: we were unprepared emotionally for this and "From the fury of the Norsemen, Good Lord deliver us" almost fits. Church is a good place to be in a crisis.

Churches help us improve our relationship with God. Our church repeatedly teaches us is that our relationship with God is paramount to understanding God's word. And like all relationships, we have trouble telling when it is broken until it is too late. The events on September 11 exposed a group of people who have a broken their relationship with God. I am at a loss to understand how anyone anywhere can think of our family as a threat to them or their society. But somehow they decided we are. Clearly they understand us even less than we understand them. We can improve our world by bettering our relationship with God and helping others who need it. Poverty, oppression, lack of education leads to a breaking with God. In this case breaking with God led to violence. We have to do something about it. Bombing them to smithereens does not seem to fit with repairing their relationship with God.

We feel American again. I grew up watching US War Bond films from the 1940s. Aunt Edith had about ten original films and a 16mm projector. Every rainy day I would bring out the projector and dim the lights. On of my favorites is "The Penny". The stereotypical farm boy finds a penny and carries it for good luck. He goes through the movie learning what all the symbols are on the penny (keep in mind this is a 1930s penny that still had symbolic references). The interesting part is that most times it was foreigners who explained the symbols on the US penny to the US GI. The message was that they knew what they were fighting for because they lost it. The key scene is when the US soldier is under fire with a Frenchman. The US GI talks about what he will do when he gets out of the war: girls, drinking, parties. He asks the Frenchman what he will do. The Frenchman says he just wants to vote again. Then in the next scene the Frenchman is killed. Maybe all this patriotism will increase interest in the most American of privileges, voting.

We have to stop ignoring our Government. Was that election a mess? Can anyone still say; "My one vote doesn't matter"? Maybe the election debacle has taught us to take our Government more seriously. If we are not taking them seriously how can we expect them to take us seriously? I read somewhere that "no sane person can survive the election process". When someone gets elected their primary role seems to be fending off attorneys or being the center of political jokes. Yet in a crisis we expect world class leadership. If we take them more seriously maybe we will get better candidates in general.

We need more Christmas letters. Now is not the time to pull back from this. It is important we spread our joy of the past year to those we don't see often. Let's hear about the wedding, the new child, a child's first words or phrase. These are normal parts of our lives and make up our history. Sharing our joy is spreading joy.

So what are our blessings. Our children have been a real blessing this year. Both are doing well in school and are good people. We have our lives, communities and country.

speaker icon

Copyright Peter Jay Smith 2005 Return to helarc.com