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Today is the tenth anniversary of the beginning of the Iraq War. The first moments of that war were heavily televised, though we saw very little that our government didn’t wish us to see.  Cameras placed on the bottoms of planes gave us the illusion that bombs could be “smart,” hit only their targets and would never hurt the general population – with whom, we were told, we had no quarrel.  Even those of us who protested the war thought it would be over quickly – though many raised concerns over its longer term impacts.  The nightly television coverage seemed to confirm these predictions, as we dropped bomb after bomb after bomb on Baghdad.  Hearing the blasé attitudes of television reporters chatting cheerfully over footage of death raining on human beings sickened me, and I wrote this poem, which now I give to you:

Windows onto the destruction
propped open in the living room;
Almost game-like in precision;
horrific in carnage.
Only 56 killed, we hear through narrow cracks.
It is a half truth.
When we turn to the window,
pry open the jammed frame,
the smell sickens.
It isn’t the 56 young Americans,
not mostly.
It is the stench of a hundred,
a thousand
two thousand
men
children
women,
fighters or lovers,
death knows no distinctions of
innocence or guilt.
The 20 megatons that would
pulverize a palace
destroy a slum.
“Regrettable.”
The lives of our soldiers
more precious than their children,
our integrity dies in the furnace.

They told us we lost our innocence
the day two towers fell.
It was a lie.
We found our innocence
the day we died.
We lost our innocence
the day
we killed.

– Dan Schatz
March 2003

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I love Christmas.  I love the carols, the greenery, the candles, the meals with family and friends, the silliness, the gift-giving – all of it.  But perhaps what I love the best is the way we talk about Christmas in my church – that the birth of a child is always a time for celebration, and every child brings hope to the world in their own very unique way.  Over the years I’ve told the age old story in countless ways – through songs, stories, and more.

Most years I write a poem for Christmas, and I’d like to share my personal favorite – written ten years ago for the candlelight Christmas service at the BuxMont Unitarian Universalist Fellowship.  Enjoy, and Merry Christmas to all!

A Christmas Poem

It happened years ago,
down between the folds of the hills,
beneath the light of so many stars and one.
When the first cries of the newborn
pierced the midnight air,
it was a new song of life.
And those who came to see the princeling
wrapped in soft sheets of his mother’s love
discovered each one a soul made new
by the light of an infant child.
Though centuries push forward,
the story is the same,
ever the same.
A child born,
a mother’s love,
a new wonder under the stars.
It is the gift of ages,
small and regal,
looking up into us
with hopeful expectation.

– Rev. Dan Schatz
Christmas 2002

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