It is Christmas morning.
And I know you've got things to do and people to visit so I'll just wish you a Merry Christmas — and give you this little gift.
This won't take long. I only ask a few minutes of your time. And then you can be about your business.
I think the true power of Christmas is that, no matter what your circumstances may be, no matter how hopeless or alone you may feel, you don't have to do anything special to find Christmas. You do not have to go out of your way to find it. It finds you.
You can even try to hide from it. It will still find you.
Sadly, such a feeling is fleeting. The hope and joy we feel on Christmas morning may well be gone tomorrow.
I don't know if there is any truth to any of the stories I heard about Christmas when I was a boy. Maybe most are tall tales — like the one about Santa Claus traveling all the way around the world on Christmas Eve — that we stop believing at some point as we get older.
As a child, I remember being told that animals can speak at midnight on Christmas Eve. One year, I resolved to put it to the test. I got up out of bed shortly before midnight and found the family dog sleeping in the living room. I woke her, and I waited with her until long after midnight. She was a patient, faithful companion, and she licked me on the cheek several times that evening. But she never said a word to me. I concluded the story wasn't true.
On the face of it, the story of Jesus' birth seems almost as preposterous. I remember when I was about 6 or 7, and my Sunday school class was talking about Jesus' birth — and the three wise men and the angels singing and the star shining on the manger and all that. And I remember asking myself, How did Mary and Joseph sleep with the angels singing and the light from the star shining on them all night?
Well, Christmas has survived two millennia in spite of such mysteries. And it brings with it a special feeling, but it is a feeling that doesn't seem to last beyond the opening of the gifts and the consuming of Christmas dinner.
Have you ever seen someone who dodged a bullet — survived some sort of accident or disaster that should have been fatal or was clinically dead and then was revived? Many go through periods during which they savor the flavor of every grain of salt or the sight of the rich hues of every sunrise and sunset. They overcompensate for taking things for granted. Never before had life been as precious to them, but, eventually, their intensity wanes and they go back to taking things for granted.
That is the only comparison that comes to mind.
I guess people can get into the "Christmas spirit" for awhile, but most cannot sustain it the whole year. For many folks, it seems to be enough of a challenge to maintain the feeling until Christmas itself. And that is understandable. It is a lofty feeling. It takes a lot of effort to maintain that altitude.
Some people would say that "effort" is really faith misnamed. And that, I suppose, is an entirely different discussion. It seems to me that "effort" may not have much to do with what you actually believe, but rather with something you want others to think you believe. "Faith," on the other hand, has to do with something you accept without hesitation. It is a part of you, as natural as breathing. It requires no special effort.
Faith can be a hard thing to hold on to in these turbulent times. But, while we have that feeling on this Christmas morning, I want to share some music that is adequate to the moment. I wanted to find voices that were majestic enough to express it, and I honestly think Luciano Pavarotti and Trisha Yearwood give fresh life to a tune I'm sure you've heard dozens of times this year alone.
Anyway, pretend you're hearing this for the first time.
And you will believe, if only for a minute, that redemption is possible. That is the real power of Christmas.
To my friends, old and new, I wish you a Merry Christmas, and I pray the new year brings us all reason to believe again in hope and joy that lasts longer than a single day.