By Tom Ehrich
I have become especially fond of videos showing flash mobs like the US Force Band at the Smithsonian, Philadelphia Opera singers at Macy's, and any number of groups bursting into song at mall food courts.
I'm sure the performers practice, but the events themselves feel spontaneous, not at all contrived, like so much of our commercial holiday.
They are surprising to onlookers, the way God's grace tends to be.
Most of all, for me at least, they are new and fresh. I hear no overtones of my childhood, as I do with my Christmas Classics station on Pandora. I don't remember singing "The Holly and the Ivy" at age 16, or "Silent Night" as a young churchgoer. I don't get caught in the vise of remembering. I don't have this sad feeling that Christmas is a yesterday moment, left behind like a high school yearbook.
With the flash mobs I can experience Christmas today: God breaking into 2014, saying life and hope into being, every bit the equal of the ugliness and hatred so rampant today, undaunted -- undaunted! -- by fear and greed, by the swaggering few, by the confusion of who's doing what injustice to whom.
Yes, I sang carols as a youth, and we brought tears to the eyes of seniors and sad ones. But my need for Christmas is now, and I am not content to savor golden memories. I want to know that God is up to the task of bringing joy to this tragically divided world.
And, yes, God is up to it. Not just because of what did then, but because of God's determination today, God's utter determination not to let bigotry and hatefulness be the last word.