Saturday, July 19, 2008

Christmas 2007

As a result of the influence of the book I Will To You: Leaving a Legacy for Those You Love, by Herbert Brokering I have been writing more. I’ve been putting down on computer files some of my life events and my feelings associated with them. As part of that I have also been writing a weekly letter to my teenage granddaughter. I figure that most teenagers need all the emotional support that they can get. My granddaughter lives 800 miles away, which makes the letters a necessary alternative to weekly visits. I share part of this week’s offering with you here. Perhaps… well, who knows?

Merry Christmas, V!

I’ve been thinking the past few days on the “true meaning of Christmas.” We hear that term frequently used at this time of year. Perhaps it is used in a sentence like this, “Let’s get back to the true meaning of Christmas,” or “All of this shopping misses the true meaning of Christmas.”

Here is my humble view of the “true meaning of Christmas.”

First let’s begin with what it isn’t. “Christ died to save our souls” is not part of Christmas. You may think that it is part of Easter but that misses the mark, too. This statement can actually be one meaning of Good Friday (three days before Easter). It is not one that fits me and my Bible reading this year, the theology of atonement, but it is certainly a popular theology. Easter’s message is that Christ overcame death and was resurrected to new life and tells us something about death and life.

The Christmas message is about God’s love for us. How much does God love and care for us? God showed us by having Christ, the anointed One of God, come and live among us, truly and fully God while also truly and fully human. Not understandable but accepted in faith.

This anointed One came to live with us in a very specific way. He was born from a real, human mother. Was “God with Us” born and raised by a rich, successful, politically powerful family? No. It was just the opposite. He was born to parents who were not rich or important in the eyes of the world, in a little backwater village in a politically unimportant part of the world.

This tells us that God cares for the poor, the unimportant, and the normal-everyday person who lives in politically unimportant parts of the world.

Did Mary and Joseph and the people of Galilee deserve or earn the right to have Christ, the God among Us, be born, grow up, and walk among those unimportant people from that unimportant part of the world? No. Not at all.

It’s called “grace.” Grace is the unearned, undeserved gift. The gift of Christmas is that God cares, loves, each one of us, not because of what we have done or how important or rich we are, but just the opposite. There is no way that we could earn the right for God to come among us, to love us as we are, but that is what God did in the birth and life of Jesus the Christ.

The birth of Christ, the meaning of Christmas, is the story of how much God loves us in our normal, walk around in old clothes, with our hair a mess, without a shower or deodorant, when we feel unsuccessful or useless. When we feel like a failure. God loves us when we gripe and complain and say hurtful things, and do hurtful acts to others. God came to us in Jesus the Christ to tell us how much we mean to God, how much God loves us as we are.

So, V, how do we respond to God’s grace of unaccountable love for each of us? I think that we try as much as we can to act the same way. We try to love and accept every “other” that we meet with love based not at all upon what they deserve but we love each one just because they “are,” just because that other person exists, even in the smelly body, but worse, with that personality that drives us nuts, that we can’t stand, who assaults all that has meaning in our lives. We love each person because she/he is, no matter what else, a loved child of a loving God.

And, that is a big enough challenge for me to attempt in my life each day.

This reminds me to be generous to each person I meet each day. I may keep my guard up to keep me safe from harm from some individuals while at the same time I love them as a child of God. It is an interesting balancing act but it is well worth it to me as I try to follow God’s lead in loving in grace, not because someone deserves it but just because someone “is.”

Merry loving Christmas, V!

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