It’s Christmastime once again. Hardly feels that way, though. Unlike our bitterly cold winter last year, this year has been unseasonably warm for winter’s sake — yet, seasonably normal for Louisiana. Louisiana Christmas usually equals cool-ish and rainy…. much like today, as a matter of fact.
Also unlike last year, Ev and I have two little guys who are simply Christmas-ravished instead of just Gabe who, last year, could not figure out why Connor was so ambivalent about all the festivities. Both boys are excited for different reasons; Connor is in awe of the lights and all the pretties in the house (he’s still pretty blase` about the whole gift thing — you’ve seen one rowdy toy, you’ve seen ’em all), while Gabe has finally set his sights on Santa Claus and gift-getting. I am pleased to say, though, that he is generous minded and is just as excited about giving gifts as he is receiving. Every time we pass a Salvation Army bell-ringer he begs to drop a coin in their bright red pail — even if it’s something as small as a penny. A mere token to most is super-gratifying for him; he beams a shy grin every time he hears, “thank you & merry Christmas!” from whomever is manning the post.
I’m not overly concerned yet that my kids will become so infatuated with gift-getting. We don’t spoil them throughout the year, and even at Christmas they are not over-whelmed with gifts. As much as we enjoy doing for them, we know that over-loading would be detrimental to their childlike spirit of Christmas and try to keep everything at a minimum. We decorate the tree and this year we painted our first advent calendar; there are decorations in the house and lights strung around it; gifts under the tree, Frost on TV and hot cocoa to be had. We keep it festive, for sure. But we also keep it real. Since Gabe is old enough to sort-of comprehend the real meaning of Christmas this year, I’ve really been preaching it even more than Santa Claus. He’s learned so far that candy canes were originally made to resemble both the “J” of Jesus (ask Gabe what “J” stands for and he’ll gladly yell, “Ummm, JESUS!”) and the shepherd’s staff. He also learned that the bold red stripes symbolize his blood and the white stripes signify that because of the red stripes, we are washed “white as snow” (he really liked that part). We watched a kid-friendly movie earlier that (here’s the link if you’re interested) really described all the details put into Christmas… from the origin of Christmas to the reason we use Christmas trees, etc. He is excited to learn all these new (to him) things, and I’m pretty excited to share them with him.
I’m so glad that he is beginning to understand that, while it’s okay to believe in Santa and have holiday fun, the true meaning of Christmas was a gift so unfathomable to us all. Something that, even as Christians, we cannot fully comprehend. I, for one, could not imagine allowing one of my kids to die for a world that most definitely would not do likewise for one of them. And I most selfishly could not give one of them up for my own good — I carried them in my body nine months. I carried them in my arms when they could not walk — and still do when they are tired or sad. I will carry them in my heart until it ceases to beat. I could not and would not give them to a world who, I feel, does not deserve their innocence. So it is hard for me to understand why Mary — or, greater still, God — gave their Son to die a death so undeserved to him. Why he would feel every pain and every dark moment from the time he was put on the cross and to times far beyond that. I cannot understand. And, frankly, I don’t want to. Some things are better left alone. Right?
Anyway. I heard something on the radio this morning that I want to share with you guys, and then I’m going to jet. There is a passage in John 8:1 – 30 that tells of a woman brought before Jesus for adultery. By Old Testament law, she was to be stoned for her crimes — an experience I’m afraid she would have endured if the Pharisees would have had their way. The Pharisees said, “…this woman has been caught in the act of adultery. Now in the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. So what do you say?” And do you know what he said? He said, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.”
And it hit me right there in my car like a brick to the face. Not one of the Pharisees could cast stones; they were not without blame. But there was one there blameless. One who had a right to cast stones. But he did not. Instead, he forgave her by saying this, “Jesus stood up and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more.”
You’re probably wondering where I’m going with this, right? Hang in there.
Her not being stoned is not exactly our greatest gift. But right there, in that very moment, she experienced her own greatest moment of Grace. She was pardoned. She was set free. And of course she would go forth and sin — she was human. But at that moment, she was set free. Really, she had been set free the day of his birth. We all were. Christmas is a day of giving. We were given the ultimate and unfathomable gift of new life from a little one who would do no harm — who would commit no wrong. It’s a beautiful story that I am proud to tell my kids. It’s a story that I hope, one day, they will tell their own children. We celebrate Christmas (or Christ’s Mass) for the most incomparable gift that can never be returned and that always fits: Hope.
Merry Christmas, y’all. And in case I’m not back in touch before January, Happy New Year.