December 2008

Giving thanks at Christmas

Christmas is a wonderful time of the year. With the nights drawing in at 4pm and the glowing warmth of the many lights. Its not like later, when there has been enough of winter, and we are yearning for some sunlight that actually warms us up. Around Christmas, somehow the cold and the darkness are still special. I guess it has to do with expectations. We look forward, we plan we work very hard to make Christmas something out of the ordinary.

However, I'm also aware of the struggles people have around Christmas. Who will I have lunch with? How will I cope with that difficult relative? How will I deal with the pain of missing those who are not there? How can I enjoy Christmas when it reminds me of such hurtful interactions from the past? How can I bear the joy of others when I'm so lonely? How can we enjoy Christmas when there is little money for gifts?

It would be wonderful to think that Christmas could be a time when love reigns and we can all focus on the love of God shown to us in Christ. But in reality, our blessings are often mixed with pain and for many, Christmas is a reminder of the distorted, unloving nature of human beings, rather than the perfect, loving nature of God.

For those of us with loving relationships Christmas will probably be a time of joy. We can also make it a time to be grateful for the immense blessing we have in those relationships. Those who love us are gifts beyond any material gift. Our times together are treasures much greater than anything we could buy. The greatest gift we can give to those we love is to continue to invest in our relationship with time, care, support and genuine interest. Sometimes this costs us more than material gifts, demands more of us, requires more thought and sacrifice, but ultimately is worth whatever it cost, just as is our relationship with Jesus Christ. Isn't this a true image of love come to earth? Isn't this the best way to celebrate Christmas?

It may be that there is someone near you who will struggle through Christmas feeling lonely, hurt, or grieved. We pray that those of us who are blessed will notice these people and invite them into our places of love and joy, to share with them our gifts of love, and perhaps give them understanding and hope for what is possible, even in the midst of a world where pain and suffering is very present.

And as we move into the new year, we think about the relationships that are part of our lives. How do we nurture them? How do we mend the broken ones? How do we invest in them so that they become fully the gifts of love that we all need? For this season of Christmas and the New Year, I pray the love of God will be born again in your relationships and that you will be able to truly give thanks.


December 2008