Christmas Week

I haven’t written a lot about holidays here, but something about Christmas begs at least a mention! And I want to acknowledge Christian writer Richard Paul Evans (author of The Christmas Box and a great many other books) for prompting this post. In the flurry of all those pre-Christmas activities, there is always something at the back of my mind waiting for attention, and Evans helped me stop to take a closer look at it.

In Evans’s Christmas message, he of course told a story, but he also made this point: “I came to the realization that it is, perhaps, not as much a question of what Christmas is about as it is what we are about. That is, while we are attempting to define the season, the season, in fact, is far more adept at defining us – questioning our hearts whether or not we will hear its call of love and joy and peace on earth, goodwill to men.”

“Questioning our hearts” nails it for me. How critical it is not to just float along, detached from awareness of who I am and how I really think, letting my truest self be buried under the onslaught of social media — but rather to insist on taking the time and focus to ask myself where I am on my personal peace walk, on my love walk, on how I look at other people especially in times of inflammatory public rhetoric. No matter what the inputs are, it is my responsibility how I translate it into attitudes and actions.

So Christmas is, at its most basic level, about the birth of a child. But it’s also about the birth of humankind’s means of salvation, and how important it is to be reminded of that at least annually, preferably a lot more frequently.

This Christmas Week, I want to be mindful to see the Christ child birthing in every person I encounter.

           

Grace

A friend in Indiana pointed me to the books of Richard Paul Evans, who is a skilled storyteller in the inspirational genre. I hadn’t read his work before, but he’s published a lot for a guy who is only 52.

I picked up his novel The Road to Grace at the library. The title page notes that this is the third journal of The Walk series. I’m sure I’ll look for more from him.

The story is about a man, a once-successful advertising executive, who has suddenly lost everything of value to him: his wife from complications following a riding accident, his business through the deceit of his business partner, and finally his home through foreclosure. He sets off on a cross-country journey on foot with nothing more than a backpack. Among the people he encounters is his mother-in-law, who follows him unrelentingly until she finally obtains his forgiveness.

The character has numerous insights along the way, and the one that has most remained with me has to do (as you might expect) with grace. Evans writes: “Grace sustains us on our journeys, no matter how perilous they may be and, make no mistake, they are all perilous. We need not hope for grace, we merely need to open our eyes to its abundance.”

The Bible repeatedly defines grace as God’s unmerited favor. We can’t possibly earn it, but it is there for the mere accepting of it.