Christmas Wishes

An extract from my annual holiday letter to family and friends…

While I type this letter, I am reminded that the Christmas season brings with it imagery of love’s simplicity, of humility, and of peace on Earth. Hanging on the wall beside my computer is a small crucifix [L and S] bought for me while on their summer trip. I cannot articulate what and how much it means to me that my wife and daughter, when selecting souvenirs for me, would pick this particular item. But to put it simply, it means that apparently, in spite of all my weaknesses and shortcomings, people who know me understand that I believe in certain things, that my interior life is about certain things, and that I trust in certain things. As I sit here and stare at the crucifix, I can’t avoid seeing significance in the fact that it was cut from an olive branch and handcrafted somewhere in the West Bank; that from a hot-bed of strife, contention, hatred and violence comes this ultimate image of the one who said love one another, pray for your enemies, forgive them, and blessed are the peacemakers. Think about that for a second.

I would like, in this holiday letter of 2008, to bring this image into the forefront of our thinking, with the rampant polarizations within our current culture forming a contrasting background. I would like to ask all of us, we who believe and trust in the message of the cross and of he who was hanged upon it, to deeply and profoundly internalize the call of that message. I would like to suggest that we ask ourselves what, at the end of our lives, will matter. Will it be that for a moment we once held a particular set of intellectual opinions in an ever-changing world, or will it be that we chose above all things the timeless call to love other people no matter what the cost? I would like to suggest that whether we are engaging friends, family, neighbors or enemies, our calling is obscenely and scandalously simple: to love deeply, to love profoundly, and above all to love humbly. I would like to suggest that if this crucifix means anything at all, that we must begin with it, anew, today. I would like to suggest that if we believe in peacemaking, we must allow peace to begin now, in this very moment. And I would like to suggest that for peace to begin, it must begin in your heart and mine. It is not our calling to change those who are different from us. It is, rather, our calling to be different, to be changed—to be transformed by God’s love, poured out upon us through a little child born long ago, in a land we call the West Bank.

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