Do you hear what I hear?

Said the night wind to the little lamb,

“Do you see what I see?

Way up in the sky, little lamb,

Do you see what I see?

A star, a star, dancing in the night

With a tail as big as a kite,

With a tail as big as a kite.”

 

Said the little lamb to the shepherd boy,

“Do you hear what I hear?

Ringing through the sky, shepherd boy,

Do you hear what I hear?

A song, a song high above the trees

With a voice as big as the sea,

With a voice as big as the sea.”

 

Said the shepherd boy to the mighty king,

“Do you know what I know?

In your palace walls, mighty king,

Do you know what I know?

A Child, a Child shivers in the cold–

Let us bring him silver and gold,

Let us bring him silver and gold.”

 

Said the king to the people everywhere,

“Listen to what I say!

Pray for peace, people, everywhere,

Listen to what I say!

The Child, the Child sleeping in the night

He will bring us goodness and light,

He will bring us goodness and light– Noel Regney[1]

hear

A few evenings ago I was at a Christmas party… a truly pleasant and memorable one… warm and gracious hosts, dozens of conversations with fascinating and good people, mostly strangers. In the course of the evening, one of the guests asked me what I thought about climate change. I shared a few thoughts. In response, he said he was a skeptic. He then offered a rationale. Part of his reasoning caught me by surprise. It was so different and unexpected that in the days since I wonder if I heard him correctly. What I (thought I) heard went something like this: “If scientists truly thought things were as bad as they claim, they would be acting differently – less like business as usual.”

Wow.

Taken at face value, this raises questions on so many levels. In retrospect, I wish I’d had the presence of mind to ask: Do you think scientists should be taking to the streets? (Some have done that.) Do you think they should be hacking the e-mails of their critics in the debate? (Some have done that.) What about the opposite view – that scientists are overreacting? That they’re too shrill? Have we reached such a state in our polarized, cynical society that the dialog we hear on climate feels no different from “talking about the weather?” You’d probably have asked my companion even better, more insightful questions of your own.

Coming during the holiday season, this conversation drives home a point we all know. As human beings, we have little difficulty discussing life’s daily concerns and events. We can agree on whether it’s raining or the sun is shining. We can ask each other “where’s the nearest bus stop” or “who won last night’s game” or “what’s for supper” and process the answers with ease. But we struggle when it comes to the momentous:

Is climate change real? If so, was/is it caused by human beings, or some external agency? And what should we do about it?

Did Jesus really exist at all? Was he man, born of the world or is he God, entered into the world? And what should we do about it?

The two sets of questions might have more similarities than differences. Neither should be ignored. As the song asks, when we hear the message of climate change – or the message of Christmas – what do we hear?

Something to think about today. Or maybe even tomorrow… or over a succession of tomorrows[2].

_____________

[1] This beautiful Christmas song, with lyrics by Noel Regney and music by his wife Gloria Shayne Baker, was composed in 1962 at the height of, and partly in response to, the Cuban missile crisis. You can find fuller background here. Of course you want to give it a listen! You’ll find dozens of different performances, ranging from the 1963 Bing Crosby classic that helped make it famous to today’s popular Carrie Underwood rendition here.

[2] One difference? The length of time we’ve been processing the two questions. We’ve been trying to wrap our minds around Jesus Christ for two thousand years. Climate change has been on our minds only for a few decades, maybe a century. Will this new idea demonstrate the same staying power?

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