I never got around to posting on Thanksgiving so I made sure to squeeze in a Christmas post in between tree decorating, caroling, homework, and dinner.
The Christmas Story tells us of a girl becoming a young woman; of the birth of a child in the dirt of a stable; of a dangerous journey and of a blessing. It promises that God has not forgotten us and that God can be found even in a stable, even in a baby. The Son of God should be born in a palace, bedecked in gold and silk – but rather he is born into poverty and indeed lives in poverty. Beauty and wonder can be found everywhere, we learn. A light exists even in the darkest place and time.
One of the central lessons of the Christmas story is grace. Grace can be difficult to define. It is manifested in beauty, love, forgiveness, compassion and is found in surprising places.
My maternal grandmother is staying with my family for Christmas. I’ve often had a troubled relationship with her and we fought in November when she voted no on marriage equality in Maine. But while she’s here I’m trying to exercise grace. I came out to her the day after she arrived and we both tried to bring understanding to our relationship. I feel more at ease now that I’m being honest. I try to hold my tongue when she says ridiculous things and be polite and helpful. She is of another generation and came from a time when appearances were everything and anyone who was different – gay, transgender, Jewish, atheist – hid it at all costs.
Grace was also shown to me yesterday when I went out with friends for dinner. It may seem a simple thing, but they welcomed me into their group just a few months ago and I greatly value having people to rely on and have fun with. In our gift exchange I realized how much we all care for each other and indeed understand each other.
Random acts of kindness are one emblem of Christmas and of the traditional Christian spirit. Another embodiment of Christmas and of grace is charity. I’ve become much more aware of the importance of charity in the world and in our lives this year. The need in the world is incredible and our ability to help is greater than we may think. It’s easy to help one person. Microfinancing – giving small loans to individuals – can be life-changing. Education is another route and donations to schools and organizations are very important. There are so many organizations that seek to help children, women, and communities in the developing world – and there are many here in the US as well. Instead of giving gifts of stuff this year, I gave gifts of life: donations to the International Rescue Committee and to Episcopal Relief and Development. I encourage you to step back from the stuff and take a moment to appreciate the people around you. Appreciate life, and take advantage of your ability to give back to life through kindness, grace, and charity.
Have a wonderful Christmas!