Editorial: After wonderful gift, maybe it’s time for reflection

I’ve covered sports on and off for 36 years. I love sports.

So it was a little disappointing for me that I had a previous commitment on Nov. 26 and couldn’t get to Hillsboro to watch the Warriors make history. Particularly after they won.

I’ve been there. Winning a championship, particularly in a socially prominent sport like football, is a really big deal. It can be life-changing.

I once covered a team in central California, in the mid-1980s, that had not won a league football title since the 1960s. I won’t go into the gory details, but by the time I got there, as a young newspaper reporter, they’d gotten themselves a new coach to replace the old-timer who’d been there far too long, and they had a quarterback who could hit a teammate on the numbers so hard at 60 yards that the receiver was likely to drop the ball.

And that was just when he was  a freshman.

The quarterback eventually ended up in the NFL, but that’s not the story here.

There’d been some recent success in other sports, like track, in recent years, but a lot of things finally started to gel for the Eagles (which happened to be this team’s moniker). In one season they not only won their first league title in, I believe it was 22 years, but they went on to win the whole shebang, the Southern Section championship, which is comparable to a state title in Oregon.

That experience created a culture change for the school – and the farm town it was located in. They’ve won several more CIF championships since then and have been in the finals seven times – last time I counted. The most recent was just a few years ago.

In other words, they they’ve gone from being perennial, generational, losers to periodical champions. They learned how to win.

It was a change in culture, in a community mentality, that has extended over a couple of generations.

I’m certainly not suggesting that Lebanon football has been in the condition I described above, but no matter what, it’s great to see kids rise to the top and invigorate the community in the way they have.

Hoping (as, I know, are many others) that this is just the beginning for the Warriors, even as it was for the Eagles.

Congratulations to Coach Ty Tomlin and his players. Lebanon should never forget this.

*  *  *  *  *

That state championship plaque was probably one of the best Christmas gifts the community could have gotten this year, and maybe some of us aren’t in a real reflective mood regarding things that go beyond football.

Life, at least to this 50-plus-year-old, seems to get more complicated every year.

We run around with cellphones that never stop ringing and texting. I get at least 100 email messages a day – to one address (I have others).

We have a thousand channels on our TV (which we can also watch on our cellphones if we want to pay enough – or the computer, for that matter).

If we’re bored, there’s always YouTube, or iTunes, or all those electronic games.

We have GPSes, infrared trail cams, laser sights.

Pretty soon we won’t have to drive our cars, we’ll just hop in.

But do you really think life will become less complicated then?

I go to the store to get Christmas shopping done and it’s sensory overload. We can have just about anything we want and, at least in my household, it seems like we have too much.

On top of that, we’ve just come through a pretty tortuous election, with a shocking – for many – result that has inspired even more discord.

It can get a little chaotic and sometimes I realize that we are so hung up on incidentals – things that may not matter much in the big picture – that we forget what’s really important.

I help out with music for my church and the other day I was looking over some traditional carols in preparation for a special service we’re planning.

One caught my eye: “It Came Upon a Midnight Clear.”

We’ve probably all heard it, even if we haven’t spent much time in church.

I’ve noticed that there is a fairly distinct emphasis on peace in this song. Also, it doesn’t even mention Jesus Christ, who – last I checked, is still the focus of the Christian celebration of Christmas.

Curious, I decided to do a little research.

Turns out it was written by Edmund Sears, a Unitarian minister, in 1849, a period when tensions were heating up toward what ultimately resulted in the Civil War. Though the Unitarian movement was known for its dismissal of the historic Christian belief in a Trinitarian God, Sears apparently didn’t follow the party line, once stating: “Although I was educated in the Unitarian denomination, I believe and preach the Divinity of Christ.”

I mention that because the focus of his Christmas carol apparently wasn’t a doctrinal diversion. But it was intended to be a message of hope in an increasingly divisive world.

My point is probably becoming obvious, so I’ll move right along: Things aren’t that different in the United States, for many, than they were in the mid-1800s. People didn’t agree then and they don’t now, even to the point of occasional violence.  We’ve seen it recently.

I’m not suggesting we’re on the verge of civil war.

But I do think that Sears has something to say to us today that is just as valid as it was in 1849 – particularly the third verse, which generally isn’t sung today. Here’s the song:

It came upon the midnight clear,

That glorious song of old,

From angels bending near the earth,

To touch their harps of gold:

“Peace on the earth, goodwill to men,

From heaven’s all-gracious King.”

The world in solemn stillness lay,

To hear the angels sing.

Still through the cloven skies they come,

With peaceful wings unfurled,

And still their heavenly music floats

O’er all the weary world;

Above its sad and lowly plains,

They bend on hovering wing,

And ever o’er its babel sounds

The blessed angels sing.

Yet with the woes of sin and strife

The world has suffered long;

Beneath the angel-strain have rolled

Two thousand years of wrong;

And man, at war with man, hears not

The love-song which they bring;

O hush the noise, ye men of strife,

And hear the angels sing.

And ye, beneath life’s crushing load,

Whose forms are bending low,

Who toil along the climbing way

With painful steps and slow,

Look now! for glad and golden hours

Come swiftly on the wing.

O rest beside the weary road,

And hear the angels sing!

For lo, the days are hastening on,

By prophet bards foretold,

When with the ever-circling years

Comes round the age of gold;

When peace shall over all the earth

Its ancient splendors fling,

And the whole world give back the song

Which now the angels sing.

In the craziness of our world today, we should reflect on that message of hope, inspired by the birth of Jesus Christ.

And may you have a blessed Christmas!