Elections and Christmas

Parish Diary

Fr. Peter Daly

November 30, 2000



            A couple days after election day Charlene Sparrow called from the Board of Elections.  Charlene is a parishioner and our local voter registrar.  She is also one of our local election officials in Calvert County, Maryland.

            She just wanted to let me know that I had received two write-in votes for President of the United States.  “That’s pretty good,” she said, “when you consider that Hillary Clinton only got one vote in our County.”

            Even though I hadn’t been running for anything, a wave of political ambition swept over me.

“Perhaps,” I thought, “there were more votes out there?   Perhaps there was a groundswell movement in the Catholic community.” 

            “Charlene,” I said, “I want a hand recount.  But I’ll be reasonable about it. I only demand a recount in the precincts that have heavy concentrations of my parishioners.”

Using statistical projections from those precincts, I could prove that I actually carried Maryland and then maybe control our ten electoral votes.  Then I could swing the election one way or the other.  I could be a king-maker.

            It is amazing how intoxicating dreams of political power can be.  Ambition quickly takes you over.  In this era of “stranger than fiction” political events, my scheme didn’t seem all that unreasonable.

            Ps 146 says, “Put not your trust in princes, in mortal men, in whom there is no help.  You take their breath and they return to clay, and their plans that day come to nothing.”

            As this political season draws to a close and the Christmas season is upon us, the admonition of the psalm 146 is a good thing to remember.

            Our trust and hope is not in the princes of this world, but in the Prince of Peace.

One of the good things about our liturgical years is that it is a circle.  It brings us back each year to certain eternal truths.  Things we need to be reminded of again and again.

            Christmas reminds us that the kingdoms and the politicians and the powers of this world pass away, but the incarnate and living word of God endures. 

For all of its influence and might, the Roman Empire, which had ordered a “hand recount” of the whole world in Jesus’ time, has passed away. For all of his fearful cruelty, Herod, the terror of Israel at the time of Jesus, died in shame and his grave is forgotten.  The cruelty and power of Caesar Augustus, King Herod and their successors eventually gave way to other political powers.

If there had been media pundits around 2000 years ago, none of them would have called things the way they turned out.

Nobody would have said that the really significant event of that year was not the crowning of kings and emperors or the appointment of governors, but the birth of a child.

Nobody, except three foreign wise men and some shepherds, would have thought that they should set up a media encampment at a cave outside of Bethlehem.  It was, after all a “no account” precinct in a “no account” province of the empire.

But it was in the stable at Bethlehem and not in the palaces of Jerusalem or Rome that the real history-making event was happening.

            A child was born to us.  A son was given to us.  On his shoulders, dominion and power rest.  His name shall be called wonderful, counselor, … prince of peace.

            It is from his birth that the whole world recons its time.  His birth has become the hinge of history.  A baby so poor it was born among the animals.

            With that in mind, I don’t think I’ll ask Charlene for a recount.  What would it really matter even if my scheme could come true.

The real political action is not 50 miles up the road from our little town in Washington.  It is right here, in our homes and hearts.  The election that really matters is who we welcome this Christmas to be king of our hearts.