The Gift of Grace

If you are looking for a last-minute Christmas gift,  I would encourage you to consider giving something we all want, need, and desire but are reluctant to award to others:  grace.  

To say our society is currently wrestling with significant issues is an understatement.  We are enveloped in political turmoil,  wrestling with a pandemic, and dealing with a linked economic crisis.  We are also grappling with significant racial strife in our nation. I think many Americans believed great strides have been made in eliminating racism and discrimination, but 2020 has been a painful reminder that we have a long way to go. It’s been a tough year, and unfortunately, we have never been more divided.  Anyone that has ever paddled a canoe knows firsthand you have to paddle in the same direction or you will go in circles.  Right now the entire nation has vertigo.  

But this really isn’t about the logistics of problem-solving.  It’s much bigger than that.  My real concern is the anger and vitriol that permeates our culture. Most of us want to win arguments and prove our beliefs superior,  but rarely is there a single, correct answer to any issue (trust me, I’m right about this.) I so resent this fact but it’s true.  I’ll never understand how anyone can prefer Pepsi over Coca-Cola or cheer for the Cubs over the Cardinals.  In my world, both of these are tantamount to blasphemy but in reality, neither are wrong.  They are preferences, and we shouldn’t harbor hatred in our hearts because of differing opinions.  My experiences have taught me that people are incredibly complex.  We all have unique identities shaped by our life experiences.  Holistically, we tend to dwell on our differences and rarely focus on our commonalities.  

And this directly contradicts the spirit of the holiday season because Christmas is really a love story.  I’m the last person to preach at others because I’ve often seen religion wielded as a weapon.  At times it fosters judgment and tribalism, and that’s a shame because to practice Christianity is to accept others and embrace love.  Often we equate success with power and strength, but Christmas is the antithesis of this narrative.  A baby, man in its most fragile state, was born in a most inauspicious and humble setting, a simple manger.  The greatest gift the world will ever receive arrived humbly, and with little fanfare.  It was a gift of pure, unadulterated love.  

Christmas is the celebration of love.  Jesus’ life shed a light in a dark world, and that light continues to shine in us.  In burns brightest when we are at our best:  loving and serving others.  Christ was once asked which of the commandments was most important.  He replied: 

You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart,

with all your soul,

with all your mind,

and with all your strength.

The second is this:

You shall love your neighbor as yourself.

There is no other commandment greater than these.”

Mark 12:28-34

As we close a year of struggle and despair, remember to embrace this season of hope.  All of us have eccentricities and no one is perfect, but we all are here for a reason.  We all have worth. To embrace your neighbor and spend time with those you love is the best gift you can ever give  It’s the continuation of the original Christmas gift, a perpetual gift; a bright light that continues to shine in a dark world.  Our society’s ills are not derived from love, but they can be solved by it.   Instead of seeking confrontation, embracing division, and insulating our opinions by marginalizing others, we should strive to listen, understand, and embrace those around us. What is under the tree is far less important than the people around it  

It is my hope that you will be a light for others in this new year. Like a “jelly of the month club”, it truly is the gift that keeps on giving.

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