Léna's Lit.Life

Léna (me): Lit, as in literature, Lit, as in light, Lit, as in a little kooky: Life.

"Well, the question is, what do you want to believe? Do you want to live in a world where things are possible, or in one where they aren't?" Cin, Edges.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

My Dad's Christmas Poem: White Christmas?

My dad, The Very Reverend Alan W. Jones, Dean Emeritus of Grace Cathedral in San Francisco, sent me his latest poem yesterday, and I asked his permission to share it. I have been trying to get him to blog for a while now - he is a master storyteller and the author of eleven theological books - indeed, he has much to both teach and share with us! So I will leave you with this while I am on my way to Northhampton, Mass, where I have the honor of participating in a baby shower and being godmother to baby James who is due in January. There ain't nothin' like a baby at this time of year!*

White Christmas?

“Those who do not have power over the story that dominates their lives, power to retell it, to rethink it, deconstruct it, joke about it, and change it as times change, truly are powerless.” Salmon Rushdie.

Irving Berlin remembered the sight of an Irish family’s Christmas tree when he was a child on the Lower East Side.  He later said it seemed to him to tower to heaven. In fact, it was a tiny, miserable little tree, but for the immigrant the holiday represented the magic and wonder of a New World.

Dreaming of a White Christmas?
Why not? Irving Berlin did, based, by the way,
on no experience.
So, here’s your chance to escape the mess of belief and disbelief.

Grab whatever story
you’ve been telling yourself  about yourself
and fling it into the season’s whirlwind!
What comes flying back may surprise you.
It may make you cry. It may make you ache with laughter.

Wandering into the story didn’t bother Irving.
Why should it you?
Besides, he had the knack of remembering
something that never happened.
It wasn’t a matter of belief
but an openness to be changed by stories.

Can’t we give this baby-in-the-manger stuff a chance to deconstruct whatever nonsense
we’ve been telling ourselves about the world?
Jesus, Izzy, Emma, Fred, and Sue? What in a name?
The baby’s the one that matters.

Don’t knock nostalgia.
Irving’s “White Christmas” did something to those who heard it in 1941.
The story of the mother and her baby
might do the same for us.

There are plenty of Pearl Harbors to go round (Who bombed the financial markets?
Who made the golden parachutes?
Yours and mine lost in the mail?)

One of our poets* said this sentimental song crooned
by Crosby, “caught us where we love peace.”
Not a bad place to get caught, a good way to start dumping the story that’s trapped us  
with the angst of clutching and fussing over what?  
You name it.

Bethlehem, like the Lower East Side,
offers us a new world.
Just like the ones we used to know! Hardly!
Izzy didn’t know squat – this Jewish kid from Russia.
His dismal story didn’t stop him from telling it anew -- discovering a New World.

So, start deconstructing!
See yourself in the mystery.
It’s your story too.
And given the mess we’re in,
isn’t it time to grow into a new one –
into the one where God slips in among us –
the divine New Deal?
Merry and bright!

Alan Jones, dean emeritus of Grace Cathedral, San Francisco

*Don't forget, multiple chances to win a copy of my book or an audio of Edges!  


  1. Loved that you shared this, Lena. Tell him thank you. (Another coincidence...my dad writes poetry, too.) Merry almost Christmas!

  2. Thanks Amanda! I just love this poem - you can see how much he has influenced me! Happy (almost) Christmas to you too!

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