A long time ago, in a land far, far away, a child was born. We don’t really know the day the child was born, or the year, or the place. But that child grew up to be a spiritual leader who would transform many, many people’s lives and understandings of God. That child grew into a man who effused love, compassion, justice and peace. That child came into the world at a dark time in history (though perhaps every time is a dark time) and shone a light of hope into the shadows of oppression, inequality, poverty, and fear. Because he was such a beacon of light for the world, and because we continue to need such a beacon, we celebrate the day he was born just after the winter solstice when the physical darkness has been the longest and the hours of daylight slowly push back the night. We do this year after year because we don’t want to forget the impact one person can have. And we do this year after year to bring hope into the dark places of our lives and to push back the despair of darkness that sometimes seems ready to overwhelm us.
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It takes courage to open oneself up and love, to be vulnerable. And it especially takes courage when the world has become jaded and prejudiced; when power and greed have taken center stage. Into that kind of world, Jesus had the courage to love, and to share and witness to a God of love. A God who met enemies with love. A God who embraced the outcast with love. A God who transcended laws with love. A God who conquered hate with love. A God who extended forgiveness with love. It is hard to believe in this kind of deep, unconditional love because our own love can feel so fragile and so dependent on our own self-interest. But somehow the magic of this time of year helps us to believe it might be possible.
Small miracles happen at this time of year… the friendly conversation I had with an African American grandmother as our “boys” tried on clothes at Kohls, the two men who pulled over in their pick-up trucks to help when a friend got stuck pulling out of the dog park on Hwy 38, the doors that are held open, the gifts that are given… pin-pricks of light in a blanket of darkness. So many pin-pricks, in fact, that we begin to have hope for the world again.
I once read a quote from a 5-year-old little boy named Bobby who said, “Love is what’s in the room with you at Christmas if you stop opening presents and listen.” Stop and listen, love is not just in the room, it is in your heart and soul. It is the Divine dwelling within you, just as it dwelt so fully in the child Jesus.
Christmastime reminds us that we were born to love. To live true to ourselves we must meet hatred with love. We must meet prejudice with love. We must meet fear with love. This is the lesson of the child born in a manger.