There is a poem that I pull out most every Christmas, and I make it my prayer. It was written by Cheryl Lawrie, a prison chaplain in Australia and is based on Luke 2: 1-20.
The story tells us this is all it takes for love to be born:
you listen to the voice of improbable angels
you dare to believe you might have a part to play in their story
you say yes to the idea of the impossible
you give up the future you thought was inevitable
you defy the protocols and social mores of the day when they get in
the way of what you know is true
you dare to say to those who would deny your value and role
that you just might have what’s needed, in this moment
you search for your allies and trust them with your dream
you devour the moments of joy when they come
you demand truth from yourself and those around you
you give up the things you are comfortable with
you travel long journeys in inhospitable conditions
you stand up to be counted
you take whatever shelter you can get
you aren’t afraid of darkness or dirt
you do whatever it takes, even if you’re lonely, scared, a laughing stock,
intimidated, overwhelmed, lost, uncomfortable
you accept gifts of wisdom from strangers
you honour those who put their gifts of love, however small, alongside yours
you risk everything, even your life, to give it breath.
That’s all it takes for love to be born.
Christmas is about incarnation: God became flesh and dwelt among us. We tend to think of that as a baby, Jesus, born a long time ago. And yes, God did indeed enter human existence through the person of Jesus, but incarnation happened when Mary opened her heart and life to God, and said “I will be the house of the Lord.” She dared to believe in the impossible, to defy the social mores of the day, to give up the life she expected to have, and to do whatever it would take to bring this gift of love into the world.
Christmas is not a passive activity, simply remembering something that happened long ago. Christmas is an invitation to incarnation: to trust that God is made flesh, that God is present in the hurts and hope of our daily existence, and that we can, like Mary, give birth to love today in this moment.
In my life right now, I am reminded: be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a battle. It is an old proverb, but so true. I know so many people carrying heavy things, dealing with challenging circumstances. They are yearning for some good news.
Every moment, small and large, I have a choice. I can be kind. I can love. I can make Christmas be real for someone I meet. I wish I got it right all the time. I don’t. Somedays I am too tired to care. Somedays I am too selfish, not willing to go into the mess and muck of life to do whatever it takes. Somedays I am just plain scared.
And on those days, I try to be kind to myself. I read the poem once again, and remember that it simply starts with listening and daring to believe we might have something to offer. It starts when we open ourselves to God and let God dwell in us so we can bring love to the world. Never underestimate the difference even the smallest act of kindness can make. Multiply it by thousands and millions of people around the world, and that is how God continues to enter human history.
This truly is the best Christmas gift we can give, and it’s how we make every day Christmas day!
Rev. Cindy Gregorson is director of ministries for the Minnesota Annual Conference of the Untied Methodist Church.
Minnesota Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church