This is the time of year when many people around the world celebrate an experience in their lives that is important to them — and to celebrate it in a way that honors the message of that experience.
I am speaking, of course, of the experience we call “Christmas,” as it lives in our hearts.
For many of us that message is not limited to the essence of a specific religious doctrine — hallowed and holy as that is to billions — but transcends all religions, all believe systems, all spiritual paradigms . . . driving to the core of the human condition and the human experience, and hoping to heal both.
Both have needed healing — and are in need of healing now more than ever.
And amidst so much news that is not so wonderful this year, there is good news as well. While messages of anger and divisiveness and of righteousness generating terrorism are being sent to our world, the Christmas message of love also appears to be reaching people and working its magic. It seems in recent years to be having a real effect on our world.
People of high position are saying things which no one would have dreamt, ten years ago, that persons in those places would say:
A Pope boldly challenges an entire planet with a question: “How can it be that it is not a news item when an elderly homeless person dies of exposure, but it is news when the stock market loses two points?”
A black man is elected President of the United States…twice…and he boldly declares the combating of growing inequality and the lack of upward mobility to be the “defining challenge of our time.”
An ultra-conservative Republican former U.S. Vice President boldly defends gay marriage, saying “freedom means freedom for everyone. People ought to be free to enter into any kind of relationship they want.”
In that same country, one state after the other moves to legalize same sex marriage . . . as people everywhere come to the conclusion — belatedly, but at last — that all human beings who love each other and choose to spend their lives together should be accorded the right to visit each other in the hospital, to pass their estate on to each other, and to claim other common and fair-minded legal protections and prerogatives of the married state, with their gender having no bearing whatsoever on that status.
Government, humans seem to be saying, should not be enforcing specific religious doctrine.
There are those who do not agree with these economic and social viewpoints and developments — indeed, some who disagree may be reading this now — but one thing seems apparent: we are searching, as a culture, more earnestly today than ever before to find a way to create a global community where our differences do not have to create divisions, our contrasts do not have to generate conflicts, and the variations in our beliefs do not have to produce violence in our lives.
Even as others are working against this goal, millions across the globe are beginning to earnestly seek to really create “peace on Earth, and goodwill to men, women, and children everywhere.”
The message at the heart of all the world’s great religions is beginning to be separated from each religion’s specific dogma, and is being reduced to its simplest form — inviting humanity to address at last the simplest question: Can we all just find a way to love each other?
The answer is, yes. We can find a way to love each other. We can find a way to live with each other that demonstrates love. And we can find a way to create fairness and equality with each other, regardless of the color of our skin, our gender, or our sexual orientation.
We can find a way to be kind to each other and tolerant of each other, regardless of differences in our political or spiritual beliefs.
We are capable — as a species, and as individuals — to love without condition. This is what the man whose birth we celebrate at this time of year showed us. That man was graced to live in such a way that the possibility of Divinity expressing through Humanity can never again be denied. Jesus did it, and we can, too. He encouraged us to. He invited us to. And he told us not to be afraid to, or to be wary of even trying. “Why are you so amazed?”, he asked. “These things are more shall you do also.”
The message of this season is that we are all given that grace. We are all imbued with the ability to demonstrate Divinity through our Humanity. Jesus devoted his life to showing us that possibility, but he is not the only one to have done so.
Others, both before and after him . . . others, both male and female . . . others, both dark skinned and light, Eastern and Western, known and unknown . . .have likewise used their lives to show us all our true identity . . .
. . . by demonstrating TO us all our highest possibility.
Nelson Mandela showed us such an aspect, forgiving those who jailed him for 27 years, stopping a nation from falling into tumult, and bringing the invitation of reconciliation to our wider wounded world.
Mother Teresa showed us such an aspect, creating with the power of her love a worldwide movement offering a multitude of free services to the poorest of the poor.
Yes, many — many, other than Jesus — have demonstrated Divinity through their Humanity. So let’s use this moment to renew our clarity: Divinity can be expressed by all of us — and it does not have to involve what we call world-impacting events.
Indeed, Divinity often is best expressed in the smallest of ways . . .
. . . in the thoughts we think, in the things we say, in the choices we make, in the actions we take every hour of every day.
Each of us brings Divinity to Humanity through the simple device of how we are being with each other. Our entire species evolves one kindness at a time. Thus, everything we DO is a “world-impacting event.”
The wonder of this time of year is that is “brings on” just such kindness — just such evidence of our ability to express Divinity as Humanity. That’s what makes the celebration at this time of year so magical!
Christmas seems to “bring on” a change in how people are with each other. A change in the energy of Life Itself. You can actually feel it in the air. It’s so common an experience that there are even song lyrics that describe it.
“City sidewalks, busy sidewalks, dressed in holiday style…in the air there’s a feeling of Christmas…”
That feeling is not something we’re making up. It’s not our imagination. You can feel Christmas in the air.
We call that feeling Love.
And it’s what makes this time of year not only “magical,” but important. Because at this time of year we are reminded of who we are at our basis . . . and that reminder returns us to ourselves.
To our TRUE selves.
Who we are at the core of ourselves is, of course, LOVE.
I know that may sound a bit simplistic . . . maybe even a little — what’s a word…? — “syrup-y” — but Love IS our basic component.
As wonderful Tomaseen Foley say in his Celtic Christmas program that he produces in various cities across the U.S. each December, “we are all indescribably and incomprehensively loved by God” — and that love is the stuff which fills our hearts and our souls, creating the foundation of our being.
Christmas reminds us of that, allowing us — giving us permission — to express the feeling easily. We say to everyone: “Merry Christmas!” We tell perfect strangers that we hope they “have a happy holiday.” We sit down with loved ones and break bread together — again — the way we used to.
Family again.
We share gifts with each other, and it doesn’t even matter what they are, for it is in the giving of them and in the receiving of them — whatever they are — that our love for each other is announced and declared, demonstrated and embraced, once more.
Now the trick after tomorrow is going to be to keep it flowing; to keep it “in the air.”
The question is: How can we do that? Is it even possible?
I’ve been told that, yes, it is. We simply have to decide to. M. Scott Peck wrote something remarkable in his book, The Road Less Traveled. He said, “Love is not a reaction, it’s a decision.”
Can that be true? What if love is not my response to something that YOU are doing, but my choice regarding what I MYSELF am doing?
What if true love is not “predicated” on how you are being with me, but on how I am being with you — regardless of how you are being with me?
Whoa. Wouldn’t THAT be a fascinating thing…
The question I’ve been looking really closely at this Christmas season is this: Is it possible for human beings to just BE loving?
Is it possible for people to simply decide to set aside their differences, get past their “bad” moments with one another, and just “BE” a certain way?
My memory tells me that yes, not only is it possible, it can happen with a simple decision.
Let me tell you a story from my childhood . . .
I lived in a home filled with raised voices and lots of bickering and arguing between my parents.
Now and then there were even down and dirty, drag out fights. I mean, words that hurt, doors that slammed, and even a not kind gesture or two.
Once, my mom plopped a pile of mashed potatoes on my Dad’s head at the dinner table. Once, my Dad tore up, in a fit of anger, a fancy dress that he had purchased for my Mom.
Mom and Dad loved each other fiercely. And I think that adjective is not misplaced.
So we learned to live — my brother and I — in a household that was forever on edge, always on the brink of some kind of explosion…
. . . except at Christmas time.
Every year, at Christmas, things seemed to inexplicably settle down.
Now, as an adult, I am sure that Mom and Dad just decided: “We’re not going to ruin Christmas by arguing and fighting and throwing things around the house. We’re just not.”
And you could see this decision work. To this day I can recall, as tensions would begin to mount, and just before you could expect my father to raise his voice, Mom would say . . . “Alex, it’s Christmas.”
And Dad would just blink, and — just like that — he’d shift his energy and say nothing.
It worked in reverse as well. If it looked as if Mom was just about ready to let someone have it — not just my Dad, but even one of us boys — my Dad would say, “Okay, Anne, okay….c’mon. It’s Christmas.” And the air would clear as if by magic.
This would go on from after Thanksgiving until just after New Year’s. Then, things would get back to normal. The household “truce” was over.
But I had actual proof in my own home that Peace on Earth, goodwill to men…and women…is a CHOICE.
That childhood experience left me with a burning question. I asked my Dad this question myself one year when I was around nine . . .
It was the day that the Christmas tree was taken down and dragged out of the house.
That was always a sad day for me, because, you see, I loved Christmas. I was a very sensitive child, and I loved everything about this time of year…the Christmas tree, the sparkling lights, and the wonderful feeling in the air. Even as I love it today.
But now it was that time again, that sad day when the tree was taken down, and Dad was carrying it through the house and out the back door to the yard, for its cold, cold wait to be taken away and forgotten.
And this particular year I was affected even more than usual. I don’t know why, I just was. And so I asked my Father on his way through the kitchen, tinsel falling off the tree behind him, a child’s innocent question:
“Daddy…how come, when the tree leaves the house, all the love goes with it?”
My Father stopped in his tracks, looked at me with an expression I’ll never forget, then said, as quietly as I ever heard him speak:
“I don’t know, son . . . I don’t know.”
I understand now that all my parents had to do to keep the love in the air was to make the same decision every day that they made when the Christmas tree went up.
So today I am inviting myself — and each of us — to embrace “the feeling of Christmas” . . . and then to decide inside that this Christmas is going to last all through next year.
And all through our lives.
There will be times, of course…there may be moments here and there…when this might not happen, I know. We’re all human, and we need to be careful not to hold ourselves to super-human standards. But we CAN make a decision at this time that all CAN be “calm,” and all CAN be “bright” . . . more of the time…much more of the time…if we make a decision to allow the feeling of Christmas to be “in the air”… Every. Single. Day.
And not leave the house when the tree leaves the house.
Merry Christmas my friends. God bless us, every one!

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