Anticipating Christmas ~ First Week
Dear old and new friends,
This first week of December begins the age old four weeks of anticipating Christmas, the largest, most flamboyant celebration in our country. It is paradoxical in our secular culture that the holy feast of the birth of Jesus Christ is the busiest shopping season of the year. Christians struggle not to let their Christmas be marginalized by this holiday’s powerful secular forces. Yet struggle not, for wondrously the secular and sacred, the entire world and the cosmos are fused as one in Christmas, the Incarnation of Jesus, for indeed “Emmanuel is here…God is with us.”
So in decorating your home you are simultaneously decorating your heart; purchasing Christmas gifts for family and friends is inseparable from loving them. The rabbi teacher Jesus of Galilee creatively fused together as one the ancient Jewish law of Deuteronomy 6, “You shall love your God with all your heart and soul,” with that of Leviticus 19, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” These Anticipation days call us to faithfully observe his two-as-one commandment as we endeavor to love God more by becoming better lovers of our neighbors.
The Hebrew word for neighbor was understood to mean “a fellow member of your clan” or “a fellow member of your social group,” typically limited to one’s acquaintance. In other contexts, it meant not merely an adjoining dweller but the person next to you, the person you meet by chance or the next person in line. We’ve defined neighbor, now we do the same for the love shown to the stranger. It is not same love a wife or husband feel for one another or the love for a friend for whom we have feelings of affection.
Lacking a specific English word, what sums up that unique love is a “loving kindness.” The source of this unique kindness isn’t politeness or good manners. It is a divine love not inspired by physical attractiveness or shown to fulfill any law. You love your neighbor when your reply to a stranger’s aggressive rudeness, or his or her roughly bumping you aside to get a bargain sale item, with loving kindness. It is a sanctified love with global implications, for when it is expressed towards a next door neighbor or an unknown stranger that person is for you the immediate contact point with the entire human community! Showing this divine love touches the web of all life, so no wonder it has such ancient roots.
The finest preparation for Christmas is Kindheartedness since Jesus said when you love your neighbor you loved God! Add its holy cousin Gentleheartedness into your home amidst the season’s chaos. Next add another holy cousin Generousheartedness by your sharing with the needy your bounty. These holy three will guarantee you will have a wondrous Christmas Feast of the Incarnation…divine Love tangible in all creation.