As I listen to people getting ready for Christmas and the year's end - and as I am doing so myself - certain things are coming up: The pressure to get gifts and other things ready; the pressure to wrap up year end issues (like healthcare and finances); and the pressure of traveling and being with family as best one can (and the feelings involved if one can't). It's a pressure filled time. That makes it hard to open the gifts of Christmas.
It's good to remember two things: 1) There were all sorts of pressures surrounding that first manger scene; and 2) What Jesus' life was all about.
First, in the midst of all of the modern wrappings of Christmas, it's easy to forget that Jesus' birth was a mess. It started with a shroud of suspicion (Joseph had to be convinced in a dream that Mary's pregnancy was acceptable). A very pregnant Mary and Joseph had to make a dangerous journey. There was no family to go to and no room at the inn. Not exactly how any of us would have planned a Christmas.
Second, Jesus' life was about a way of being that raises us above such problems so we can love. It's about grace that clears the way to love despite issues that might keep us from loving. For me, the meaning of his birth is summed up in the words just preceding his death: "Father, forgive them, they know not what they do." Offering that kind of love from a cross was the climax of a lifestyle that began in that stable. It's a lifestyle I sum up with the phrase the rest that works (based on Matthew 11:28-30).
So what does that mean for us? Embrace the opportunity to join Jesus in the lifestyle that empowered him to love like he did. Forgive that which might keep you from loving. Let go of resentments so your hands are free to embrace. Remember, forgiveness is not acceptance of damaging behavior. It is a choice to love despite damaging behavior. It re-values (redeems) people in the midst of devaluing forces. It is a letting go of a right to hurt back for the sake of loving, counting on God to work the situation toward good (much like God turned a manger and cross into beacons of hope). It's not about being a pushover. It's about invoking the power of love to transform things, starting with us.
Love opens the greatest gifts starting with the well-spring of God's Love within us. It is a movement of spirit we can chose. That's always a very good place to start whether we are in a stable or a palace.
More power to you in opening the gifts of your heart this Christmas!
Thanks for journeying together!
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