Christmas, economics and the spiritual

20081225How often do you see scripture appropriately quoted in a front-page news article? I was hoping I would see something like this in one of the mid-sized American newspapers before the Christmas season was over. To my pleasant surprise, my own local paper, The Indianapolis Star, on Christmas Day gave its readers an informative, meaningful and insightful news article on how the Christmas holiday season and the current economic downturn is affecting people spiritually. The focus on the local community can be most appreciated by people from the Indianapolis area, but those of you outside of the great Hoosier state can appreciate how the reporter, Robert King, drew from several churches across the region and inter-mixed Scripture to illustrate the deeper spiritual meaning behind what the article's human voices were saying:

At Christmas, churches get reacquainted with parishioners who might visit only once a year. Strange thing is, though, that the crowds began swelling this year even before the Christmas greenery was hung. In dark times, people are in search of hope.

This Christmas, modern-day messengers of God have not only been retelling the Christmas story; they have been trying to rekindle hope.

Now, Mary arose in those days and went into the hill country with haste . . .

-- Luke 1:39

The Rev. John Myrland knows that many people are hurting in his McCordsville United Methodist congregation.

Some are out of work. Some are struggling to pay their bills. And some, in the days leading up to Christmas, have buried loved ones.

King reports on the spiritual and economic conditions of congregations ranging from Methodist to Antiochian Orthodox to Quaker to Church of God in Christ. Obviously, this is not an exclusive list of Indianapolis congregations, but it is a reasonable variety representing various sides of the city. Attached to the article is a photo gallery of a Christmas Eve service in a local Greek Orthodox Church, which was recently built. (Also happens to be one of my favorite recently-built church buildings in the city).

I would be curious to see what other readers' local newspapers did in terms of features over the Christmas holidays. I imagine that most would have interwoven the economic themes that have been so prevalent these days, so the anomaly would be the story that did not combine the Christmas theme with the economic hard times the country is generally experiencing these days.

I would also be curious if any other article drew so directly from scripture passages as this article. King used the passages almost as section headings to describe the themes laid out in the subsequent sections. For a bit of background, the Star still publishes a Bible verse on its flag (II Cor. 3:17: Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty), and the paper used to publish the Gospel of Luke version of the Christmas story on the front page (this year it was on page A2). Are other newspapers out there -- the local ones in particular -- following similar traditions for the Christmas holiday?

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