Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Where Christmas Eve is not Silent Night

For the first time in my life, I've heard police sirens on Christmas Eve.

The difference this year is where I am -- in north Nashville -- signaling that "Peace of Earth, Good Will to All" is a promise not realized by everyone. That's the tragic truth, particularly here, in one of the most impoverished and crime-ridden areas in Music City.

Yet it is here, if Christ were to be born tonight in 2008, that his precious presence would be beheld. He was born into poverty for a reason, to send us a message that we should care if "Peace on Earth, Good Will to All" is not available to all people.

Do we really? Does it hurt that most of the people here are African-Americans, despite the election of the first black president?

You see, the people who live here desire the promise of this night more than anyone in Nashville or its suburbs. I know. I've talked with them, worked with them, prayed with them, laughed with them and wept with them. Now I live among them. And it is the greatest blessing of my life.

But for various reasons, the good people here have been denied the promise of Christmas Eve. Yet they still shop, work, pay property taxes and make sure their children are asleep by 8 tonight so that Santa won't catch them awake.

There are a lot of good girls and boys who live in this area of Nashville. They have to be, or they won't survive to be teens. Becoming college-educated, professional adults remains mostly a cruel dream despite a state lottery for college scholarships.

The schools are so bad here that the children cannot qualify for the scholarships to get into college. Yet people here spend more of their income than more affluent Tennesseans on the lottery to just buy a piece of hope, the possibility of "Peace on Earth, Good Will to All."

Parents here are heroic, ignoring the sirens on this night and every other to still fight and scrap to raise the best children possible.

So on Christmas Eve here in north Nashville, the repeated soundings of sirens are accepted but still resisted in the continuing pursuit here for the promise of this night 2,000 years ago.

Yet ... do we really care?

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