Sometimes we forget the real Good News of the season
This is not the column I set out to write, but it is the one I needed to write. I was gearing up for another political rant…once again railing against the established political order that just doesn’t seem to get it. But, then it dawned on me that this would be my last piece of the year, the one time to reflect on what has happened and the meaning of the season. The Russians and hacked emails will just have to wait until next year. In a few days we celebrate one of the true transformations our world has witnessed, the coming of Jesus Christ.
I know that much of the world looks at that day in a different light than me. I also understand that even for Christians, the season has become a secular nightmare of over commitment, financial pressure and unmet expectations that has spurred so much depression that we even have a name for it, Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD-an appropriate acronym I suppose). Yet, the true meaning of the season is so significant that it warrants a pause and reflection.
We seem to have lost the greater import, not of stress and anxiety but of good news. “And the angel said to them, Fear not, for behold I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.”
I do not pretend to comprehend the theological underpinnings of the moment, but I know what it means to me. Despite all of the things that I have done wrong and the trespasses committed, I have been given the gift of Grace – forgiveness, love and mercy; generous, free and totally unexpected and undeserved. It does not imply a debt to be repaid. I did not earn it, but I have been given it none the less.
It is unique, because it is the singular means to reconcile life. It is the only way to accept what we have done with its negative consequences and not let it define the future. It does not erase our actions and the real hurt it may have caused, but it does allow you to start afresh.
We need it because we are captive to the spiral of events in the natural (Newtonian) world in which we live. Cause and effect. I do this to you and you respond and it continues on forever, no matter how small the slight. Everything we do is predicated on what happened before.
But in one event, that which we celebrate on Christmas Day, the cycle was broken. We remain full of all the baggage we brought with us, but that need not define who we are and who we can become. If one can accept the undeserved forgiveness of our own transgressions, we cannot then hold on to our personal hatred and judgement of others.
Grace allows us to accept that there are things we simply cannot change and move forward with the understanding that life begins anew each day and the choices we make going forward stand on their own merit. The atonement for the past is in the hands of someone else.
And so as we approach the Christmas Season, I hope all of you can find it in your own hearts to accept the gift that we have been given and begin tomorrow with the knowledge that it really is the first day of the rest of your life. Live it that way and be thankful.