At Christmas time, I am reminded of Charles Dickens's classic literary work, A Christmas Carol. Near the conclusion of this familiar tale, Tiny Tim says "God bless us everyone". This sentiment strikes me as vastly more noble and righteous than the more common call for God's special attention and favor for me and mine or some other select few.
It has become almost a sacred practice in our society to call for God's blessing on America. In fact, many a politician or self proclaimed patriot feels an absolute obligation to make this declaration as part of demonstrating their credentials. America as the product of God's very special favor is an integral part of many, many citizen's view of the world, engrained by the teaching of our national history and constantly reinforced by traditional religion.
Maybe I am making too much of what many may view as a harmless tradition, but it seems perfectly reasonable to ask what this tradition really means. Do we as a people think that God's preferential treatment is there for the asking, for whoever has enough gumption to mouth the words? What exactly is the divine blessing we seek? Do we purposely exclude most of mankind from the proposed blessing, or do we merely particularize our request out of partisan habit.
For many, the special spirit of the Christmas season is the atmosphere of kindness and universal brotherhood associated with the birth of Jesus. This atmosphere seems to infuse us at this time of the year, providing an opportunity to set aside our self centeredness and embrace others more easily and lovingly. Few propose that the story of Jesus and the associated blessings are only for the select few. Maybe the reason why the joy of Christmas escapes us for most of the year is because we revert back to the more normal narrow focus on me and mine and what is good for us only.