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AMERICAN MORNING

Interview With Karol Jackowski, Johnny Ray Youngblood, Forrest Church

Aired December 25, 2003 - 09:31   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: Christmas is a time of year when people talk about peace and love. They show kindness not ordinarily seen in the rest of the year, and many do something else that's rare as well. They think about their faith. Earlier this morning, I spoke about that with Dr. Forrest Church, Reverend Doctor Johnny Ray Youngblood, and sister Karol Jackowski.
(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SISTER KAROL JACKOWSKI, CATHOLIC NUN: What I celebrate is how divine all of life's experiences can be. You know, we celebrate Christmas at the time of the Winter Solstice, the darkest night of the year, and we celebrate the birth of Christ to signify the light in the darkness. And I think it's a time -- I think all of suffering tends to bring us, if we're believers, closer together.

And at least I found this with my colleagues, it's been a difficult time in the Catholic Church, and it's the crisis that we experience, the suffering that we experience, has served to bring us closer together. And I think that's what I sort of celebrate, or my hope for people who find this an extremely difficult time of the year, that they can come together and be a source of support and kind of celebrate the community, or the love that they have for one another.

O'BRIEN: How about you, Reverend Church? It's hard to think we're at war, and yet we're going to celebrate.

REV. DR. FORREST CHURCH, ALL SOULS UNITARIAN CHURCH: Sister Karol mentioned the crisis atmosphere. There's a Chinese ideogram for the word crisis, which has two little word pictures, danger and opportunity. And every crisis has both. Sometimes the shadow of the danger obscures the opportunity. But this is the time of year when we're supposed to look with big open eyes, and I should hope that the opportunity would become clear.

And that's our challenge. That's the essence of Christmas, is to awaken to our promise, a promise for hope, a promise for peace, and a promise for love.

O'BRIEN: Where do you see opportunity, Reverend Youngblood?

REV. DR. JOHNNY RAY YOUNGBLOOD, ST. PAUL COMMUNITY BAPTIST CHURCH: I see opportunity during this crisis period as -- well, particularly, from our pulpits to remind our people that in spite of all that's going on, somewhere God is at work. So it becomes our responsibility to kind of push the shepherded to go to Bethlehem and hope that in three years the magi will show up.

O'BRIEN: I think in this time of year it's so difficult, because everyone, as much as we try to focus on the faith, you really end up focusing on the sprint to getting the Christmas presents bought and shipped out and sent so they arrive in time for Christmas, et cetera. How do you counsel people, all of you, to remember what Christmas is really about? Because sometimes even though we try to do that, we're not really good at doing that. Me guilty more than anybody else probably.

CHURCH: Well, unwrapping the presents and just take a look at the presents has two meanings. You have to unwrap the present, open the present. Not tomorrow, which you're rushing to prepare for, or yesterday, which you're regretting the passing of and how much you boxed it up. But this present, this moment. And, of course, the present is just filled with people, whom you have an opportunity to love. And what a great day Christmas is when families are together. But when they're not, when people are alone, it's an opportunity for us to remember and reach out to our neighbor, because that is also our Christmas responsibility.

O'BRIEN: Reverend Youngblood, what do you advise people how to remember about the meaning behind Christmas?

YOUNGBLOOD: Well, I have from the Scriptures one of the ways that you convince our people of anything is you kind of take it to the Bible, you know, and you remind them that it's not about Santa Claus. You know, and you remind them that it's not about chestnuts roasting on an open fire and mistletoe and kissing. That was not the first Christmas.

And that way we're able to look at the fact that Mary and Joseph in their own way were homeless, but yet God was at work. That it was a time when business as usual was still going on, but God was at work in a unique place.

And that's the best way, you know. You try to keep them away from the indebtedness that occurs in December, because January's coming for the payback, and that's when people tend to declare bankruptcy.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

O'BRIEN: We should mention that all the members of our panel are accomplished authors as well. Sister Karol's latest book, "The Silence We Keep," is out in January. Reverend Church is the author of numerous books, including "The American Creed." And Reverend Youngblood is the subject of the 1993 Harper Collins book, "Upon This Rock: The Miracles of a Black Church."

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