Friday, December 24, 2004

Amahl and the blessed poor

I have this tape, one made off the Austin radio in 1982, and driving back from Austin today I was listening to it, after I drove out of range of the radio station. s her child, who should, in her eyes at least, be a king. The Magi decide to leave the gold for Amahl, and tell the mother about the kingdom this "king" will have, one that doesn't need gold, and where no one will need wealth or be poor. This causes her to change her mind and relinquish the gold, because this "king" is the one she's been waiting for. Which accomplishes a miracle, as Amahl is healed and can walk without his crutch. The opera ends with Amahl setting out with the Magi to see the child.

A made-for-TV story, certainly. But it struck me how we never hear any mention of the "poor" and "Jesus" on television any more, or in the popular press, not even a connection between the poor and Christmas. Many of the "traditional" celebrations of Christmas, after all, centered around giving to the poor for one time in the year: wassailing, carolling, many "traditional" Christmas practices, were simply forms of allowed begging, whereby the rich gave something to the poor. Many folk Christmas carols (I realized there were several on this tape) are about taking care of the poor for at least one season in the year, about Christmas being the season for them.. Amahl's mother is desperately poor, and loves her child; and her poverty is not her fault, or her responsibility. And the kingdom described for the Christchild in this opera is not a worldly kingdom of power at all. But when has anyone talked about that message in connection with Christmas or Christianity, on television or radio? When have we dared make that quite radical connection?

Maybe there is something wrong with our observance of Christmas, after all....

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