We’re mired in impeachment. But it’s also Christmas. In keeping with the season, this post moves past the moment and is filled with hope for the future—as embodied in 16 year-old Greta Thunberg, named this week as Time magazine’s Person of the Year.
For Christians, we are reminded of the enduring words of hope from the prophet Isaiah who reminds us of the potential in the children among us.
“The wolf also shall
live with the lamb,
The leopard shall lie down with the kid,
The calf and the lion and the fatling together;
And a little child shall lead them.” (Isaiah 11:6)
This young Swedish activist has touched a chord. She is relentlessly focused and her words, especially for governments and adults who control the reins of power in our world, are harsh. “How dare you!” she chides, “You should be ashamed.” “I want you to panic,” she told CEOs and other world leaders at the World Economic Forum in Davos, “I want you to feel the fear I feel every day. And then I want you to act.”
In the Time article, we read, “Thunberg is not a leader of any political party or advocacy group. She is neither the first to sound the alarm about the climate crisis nor the most qualified to fix it. She is not a scientist or a politician. She has no access to traditional levers of influence: she’s not a billionaire or a princess, a pop star or even an adult.”
These words remind me of the poem, One Solitary Life, about Jesus of Nazareth and written by James Allan Francis. The poem is widely celebrated by Christians and often repeated at this time of year. In part, his poem acclaims the following truths:
He never wrote a book.
He never held an office.
He never owned a home.
He never had a family.
He never went to college.
He never put his foot inside a big city.
He never traveled two hundred miles from the place where he was born.
Let me be clear. I am not equating Greta Thunberg with Jesus Christ. She rejects any special Divine intervention. Jesus’ story has endured for generations and his message encompasses all of life’s aspects; Thunberg has just begun her work and is singularly focused. It is impossible to tell what her legacy will be, even for the next generation. But who is to say she will not succeed in turning the tide of environmental madness in order to save the planet, making it possible for our children and our children’s children to inherit the beauty and bounty of the natural world.
The beginning was lonely for Thunberg. On August 20, 2018 she protested—alone—in front of the Swedish parliament. The Time article captures the scene: “She sat slumped on the ground, barely bigger than her backpack…on the second day, a stranger joined her…a few days later, a handful more came…They were suddenly a group…and the Fridays for Future movement was born…By the end of 2018, tens of thousands of students across Europe began skipping school on Fridays.”
This account reminds me of the tongue-in-cheek, yet profoundly inspirational conclusion in Arlo Guthrie’s 1967 anti-war, talkin’ blues anthem Alice’s Restaurant about how to escape the draft. (dear reader, if you are a certain age, I invite you to take a listen and recall a former day when many of us also thought the world was coming to an end).
As I confronted the immorality of the War in Vietnam and the possibility that my draft number might be called, the song gave me great hope and made me laugh.
“And the only reason I’m singin’ you the song now is ’cause you may know
Somebody in a similar situation
“Or you may be in a similar situation, and if you’re in a situation like
That, there’s only one thing you can do
“Walk into the shrink wherever you are, just walk in, say, “Shrink, you
Can get anything you want at Alice’s Restaurant”, and walk out
“You know, if one person, just one person, does it, they may think he’s
Really sick and they won’t take him
“And if two people do it, in harmony, they may think they’re both faggots and
They won’t take either of them
“And if three people do it! Can you imagine three people walkin’ in, singin’
A bar of “Alice’s Restaurant” and walkin’ out? They may think it’s an
“And can you imagine fifty people a day? I said FIFTY people a day
Walkin’ in, singin’ a bar of “Alice’s Restaurant” and walkin’ out? Friends
They may think it’s a Movement, and that’s what it is THE Alices’s
Restaurant anti-massacre movement! And all you gotta do to join is to
This week, as I consider the dire straits facing our planet, I am moved and encouraged by Greta Thunberg and her relentless quest to motivate us all to act with urgency on climate change. Her challenge reminds me yet again how one solitary life can forge a movement that will, despite all evidence to the contrary, reverse the course of environmental havoc we have wrought and save the earth. Not a bad thought in this Christmas season.