“ Thy leaves are so unchanging…”
If there is one tradition in Flemington that invites its neighbors to come together in the spirit of shared joy and universal brotherhood, it is the annual Christmas tree lighting at the War Memorial. On Friday night, November 30, we Flemingtonians watched the tree lights set aglow for the first time this Christmas season. It was a fairly cold evening but still the mothers and fathers brought their children or some grandchildren to gather around the tree. In the midst of singing traditional Christmas carols, we watched the lights go on and then waited for Santa to make his grand entrance. What a cool ride Santa has in the absence of snow, Fire Truck No. 1, all spiffed up and sparkling, no doubt the work of our dedicated volunteer firemen. As usual Santa gave out the oranges and foot long candy canes to the children as he has been doing for, I believe, some 57 years.
That night I happened to find myself positioned next to Flemington Mayor Bob Hauck, one of the heartbeats of Flemington and Flemington action figure. More on that in an upcoming post. As I was inquiring about this tradition, a Veteran of Foreign War vet, whose name I did not get, told me the tree lighting tradition began here in 1926. Our master of ceremonies, Rob Sheneman, Cub pack leader of Pack 61, informed those gathered that this was the 57th tree lighting ceremony and that Cub pack 61 was involved in each one. Doug Niece, a name just about everyone in Flemington recognizes, was pack leader of Pack 61 since it began, several decades ago, was also present too. Additionally, the Rotary Club supplies the candy canes and oranges and among other things. The tree, which this year is particularly full and beautiful, was donated by Mr. Kenneth Saums of Raritan Township, part of our Flemington sprawl, if you will. This is vintage Flemington with the residents pitching in to make the Boro a little more of a very wonderful place to live and raise a family.
Not sure I had gotten all the information I needed, Mayor Hauck went over to Mr. Sheneman and the next thing I knew, the mayor had brought him to me to answer all my questions. You see why I see Mayor Hauck as an action figure. If you need anything, Mayor Hauck makes it his personal mission to get it for you. So true to his style, there was Rob Sheneman at my side answering questions.
Mr. Sheneman and I got onto one of the discussions of the hour in today’s world, Christmas trees and political correctness and the world’s newest religion, atheism. As we Flemingtonians stood there almost hand in hand with neighbors and strangers so enriched that past hour, I could not think of a more empty void than those places where American citizens can no longer as a community sing of brotherhood and peace and hope or display Christmas trees in public squares or in certain school districts, for instance. But this is very wrong on several counts. Here I will address only one reason it is so egregious. We Christians are taught that the evergreen is a symbol of Christ and Christ’s message is unchanging as are the leaves of the evergreen. Christ taught not only as a spiritual person but also as a political advisor. His signature piece of advice was to treat others as you wish to be treated. And would we behave so personally and across the nations, we would achieve the peace Christians sing about each year, especially during this time. It is doable, world peace. It is not a message particular to Christians but good food for thought for all persons of all ideologies, including atheists. If we treated others as we wish to be treated, we would have no 9/11 or Iraq or North Korea, racism or violence. You get my drift. So those who want to marginalize our Christian traditions, shove them out of sight in the name of secular enlightenment or political correctness, consider this idea of a Jewish young man who lived 2000 years ago and realize that if his ideas about how we should treat each other were applied universally, we would enjoy worldwide peace. Treating others as you wish to be treated is an eternal, unchanging moral code that is capable of delivering mankind from much misery. It is a code as unchanging as the leaves of the proud evergreen.