It’s a Fox News nightmare.  Our local public high school held its holiday concerts this week.

Why is it a Fox News nightmare?  Let us count the ways:


  1. It’s a public school.

  3. A big (thousands of students) public school.

  5. With lots of immigrants.

  7. Who speak lots of languages.

  9. And practice lots of religions.

  11. Or no religion at all.

  13. In a big city.

  15. On the coast.

  17. With unionized teachers.

  19. And a Gay-Straight Alliance as one of the officially recognized student clubs.

  21. Along with scores of other clubs and activities.

  23. Many of which celebrate and focus on a particular race, ethnicity, culture, language and/or nation.

I could go on, but you get the idea.

However, like so many nightmares, this one shatters to pieces when reality intrudes.<!–more–>

Because along with the “Dreidel” song, the beginning orchestra (scores of youngsters who first picked up an instrument three months ago) plays “Jingle Bells“.

Because after singing the utterly secular “I’ll Be Home For Christmas“, a choir performs Bach’s “Break Forth, O Beauteous Heavenly Light“.

Because Giovanni Pierluigi de Palestrina’s 16th century “Dona Nobis Pacem” fits comfortably next to Soon Hee Newbold’s 21st century “Mystic Caravan“.

Because the choirs sing beautifully in English…and Japanese, and Swahili, and Latin.

Because a 100 voice choir, accompanied by a full symphony orchestra, ends one concert singing Handel’s magnificent “Let Their Celestial Concerts All United“.

There are Christmas carols, Hanukkah songs, and Kwanzaa hymns.  Songs from Quakers, Shakers, Baptists, Catholics and Pentecostals.  Pieces by European masters like Albinoni, Dvorak, Mozart, Moussorgsky, Rimsky-Korsakov and Schubert.  Compositions by American masters like Handy, Mingus, Pettiford and Franklin.

Student-led a capella groups sing the latest pop hits by Bruno Mars and Lorde.  They also cover Mariah Carey’s “All I Want For Christmas Is You” and Johnny Cash’s version of “Poor Wayfaring Stranger“.

One of the great fears (or so it seems) underlying the preoccupation by Fox News (and others) with the alleged “War on Christmas” is that this brave, new, 21st century version of the United States of America will have no room for them, for their beliefs, their traditions, their customs, their ideas.

The holiday concerts at our local high school—and at thousands of public schools like it all across the country—reveal a different and far more humbling truth, a truth uncomfortably close to the mystery of the first Christmas:  there is room.

It may not be the room you had hoped for or expected.  But there is room.  And when you arrive, there are people who will welcome you (as the shepherds welcome Jesus in Luke’s gospel), who will recognize you for who you are (as the Magi do in Matthew’s gospel), who will like the angels of old hail your presence saying, “Glory!” and “Peace”.

The kids are alright.

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