The women's group to which I belong distributed Merry Christmas buttons after Mass last weekend and they went like hotcakes. 500 buttons were gone before the first third of the congregation left the sanctuary after the 9:30 am Mass. A number asked me for several more to take home to family members who weren't able to attend Mass because of the snow.
The societal pressure to turn the traditional "Christmas season" into a "winter holiday" is clearly a hot spot with many here. Even though in Colorado Springs, the community climate is largely pro-Christmas. Anyone else seeing pro "Merry Christmas" buttons or paraphernalia being distributed in your parish?
(I've seen floats in the city's Christmas parade in the past that featured live hard core fundamentalist preaching. I wondered at the time if that didn't really cross the line even in this town where religion is famously visible in the public square. The same behavior would have sparked a riot in Seattle.)
This Advent, a national theatre production of This Beautiful City, written about Colorado Springs is playing here. It portrays CS as the "unofficial capitol of the evangelical movement" (which it is not - it is one center among several in the nation - but somehow we have become the media's poster child.)
Local reviews of the play indicate that it isn't just a slam against all things Christian but much more complex and playful than that and that it skewers anti-Christian liberalism as well. Some local evangelical leaders have attended and say that it was salutory to hear how evangelicals are perceived by outsiders.
Two years ago, on December 9, 2007, the nation heard of a terrible double tragedy in our area: a gunman had shot and killed some young missionaries in training and then opened fire on worshippers at our local mega mega-church, New Life. I blogged about the story here and here.
In the New Life parking lot, David and Marie Works and their four children were getting into their minivan after the service. The gunman shot and killed two of their teen-aged daughters, Stephanie and Rachel, and critically wounded David.
Two years later, the Works have forgiven their daughters' killer and befriended his parents who were invited to Laurie Works' wedding in August. "We are committed to being lifelong friends with them" says David Works.
Ronald Murray, father of the gunman was interviewed on a February Focus on the Family spot. He said that the relationship between the two families "shows the love of God to bring and reconcile people together."
Davie Works put simply in a way that takes my breathe away. They aren't looking for anything but friendship from the Murrays. "They don't owe us anything."
Your son kills my daughters. But you don't owe us anything. The sort of forgiveness that hits me in the gut, that touches all the inner aches of old wounds, that makes me just stop and exhale for a moment.
This town may be a media by-word but it is also a town where the Christian faith is lived. In remarkable ways.
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