Saturday, December 10, 2011


Durban climate talks

This is the nativity scene my great-grandmother bought piece by piece at a dime store sometime before 1950. A couple of things have been replaced over the years; a palm tree made of some sort of mystery material totally disintegrated after a couple of years of summer storage in Nebraska.  It is obviously worn; with its yellow sheep and Mary’s numerous chips, it’s not as beautiful as the nativity sets I see in other people’s homes, but it has a lot of meaning for me. As long as I can remember, I have helped set this up sometime during Advent. We keep the baby Jesus elsewhere until Christmas Eve, when we place a small spray from the Christmas tree in the manger and lay the baby there.

Advent is a time of active waiting. We set up our nativity scene and wait for the arrival of the baby. We engage in spiritual disciplines – special readings or intentional quiet time or prayer walks – to help make our hearts ready for a true celebration of the Incarnation.

Today we hope to go out and find a Christmas tree. Today is supposed to be all about getting the room ready for the tree, bringing the tree home and setting it up, and beginning to decorate it. We will probably get this done, but the start of all of this has been delayed because of the news coming from the climate talks in Durban.

The climate talks are basically in overtime. The Green Sprouts Wednesday post, Trampling on the Needy, talked about the disconnect between the United States proposal and the extent and timing of the need to address carbon emissions and climate mitigation in a significant way.

Exactly what is being proposed as the conference has gone into extra time isn’t clear at this point. Here is what we do know: unless something of real significance comes out of this, unless the nations of the world agree to do whatever we need to do in the next five years to assure climate stability, we will have gone past the tipping point and unleashed unthinkable consequences for the living things on our planet.

It’s very odd to be carrying on traditional Christmas preparations knowing that the fate of current and future generations – and the sort of world in which I enter old age – hangs on what is happening in a roomful of people in Durban today. People are suffering right now from climate change, and inaction will make things much worse. Here is a list of the “topeight climate disasters during the Durban climate talks” from Think Progress.

Today we can actively wait on the outcome of these very important talks. Please take some time today to pray for the climate negotiators and those whose lives will be most immediately affected by what they decide, including the people of Africa and of the world’s island nations. News and links to ways to take action are available easily on the internet. One site is . On Twitter, #COP17 can keep you informed.

Our Advent waiting isn’t just waiting for our Christmas celebration. It’s waiting and actively preparing for the coming of the reign of Christ. As I go about my Advent preparations, I’m thinking of what all of this will be like for me in twenty years, what it will be like for those who will be living on this planet long after I am gone. How will their Christmas celebrations look? What will their everyday lives be like? What am I and others of my generation leaving them other than some dime store figurines and traditions that need to be enfleshed by Christian compassion now if they are to have any meaning in years to come?

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