Whether any of us are in the wide spectrum of "beliefs" that identify us as "Christians," the story of the birth of a Nazarene baby boy in Bethlehem has special meaning this year in America. Think of how this story illuminates what is happening here. How common are the threads in the U.S. of 2008 and 2009.
Trekking slowly to pay their taxes to a military Roman Empire, built in part on Middle East military adventures, come a humble man who works hard with his hands, and a pregnant girl of 13 or 14 years. Joseph and Mary are examples that billions of people all over the world follow, but in hypocritical U.S., the young girl would be considered a social outcast. And a man working without a labor union would be poor enough to have to walk to pay his taxes a long, long way. No societal welfare was there to help them in their hour of great need, and instead of a roofed house over their heads, the birth takes place in a barn. In a sense, on this special night, they are homeless.
There are scores of connections that could be made from then to today in the U.S. But today there is an organized, boundaried nation called the United States of America. And its citizens pronounce lofty goals for all its people. But most people in need are ignored or underserved. There is no common good, no safety net welfare program, no feeling of responsibility on the part of the average American. Capitalism has taught us well to gather as much material as we can, and to hell with the needy. Greed trumps need. Money is more needed for our military adventures and "voodoo economics" that tell us when the rich get richer everybody benefits. Well, the rich sure got richer in the past quarter century, and what happened to all the "trickle down"? The U.S. is on the road to the poor house from greed and right-wing "solutions." Suddenly social democracy is not communism and desperation causes even big business to surrender to socialism's ideas.
Will Barack Obama be the new savior? No. But his ideas put forth in the past election give us hope. And when all else fails, as it did in Bethlehem so many years ago, hope may have to be enough.