Merry Christmas and Happy New Year

It’s so odd to me that people make such a big deal out of those words as well as Happy Holidays. They are all nice words. But for some reason a greeting that is intended to bring a smile to our lips and cheer to our hearts can also bring vitriol and hateful behavior. Words are so powerful. And so are their meanings.

I love words. I love to read words, and hear words, and discover new words. When I hear a new word I always want to remember it so I can use it in a conversation and sound more sophisticated. But instead I have a tendency to forget the word and then stumble through trying to say the word I don’t remember and end up using a first grade word and looking less than sophisticated.

Or, words that are pronounced incorrectly – I am sure you have all known children or been a child who couldn’t pronounce a word correctly. My sister used to say umbrabrella for umbrella. I would laugh. But, she laughed when I said mazagine. My mom would break down the word and have me repeat each syllable – mag, mag, a, a, zine, zine. Magazine, mazagine!

And then the words that we read in a document that has not been edited well. There is a big difference between an angle and an angel.

Words that are translated into different languages take on whole new meanings too, especially if they are said incorrectly or there’s a wrong tense.

Words are truly remarkable.

As we begin this New Year I think about the scripture from the first chapter of John, which says, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. What has come into being  in [the Word] was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.”

This Christmas season we celebrate the beginning of the story, the Word that came into being. We don’t know how, and at some point I am ok with the mystery of God. But the Word came and gave us words to continue the story of community and grace. The Word was, and is, light.

The Christmas story is a lovely story for us to remember not only the struggles and then the birth of a tiny baby born long ago in the middle east, but also to remember the stories of our own families. The joy of new life in whatever form that may be. We use the story of the new baby to almost mandate a gathering of friends and family. I believe that is one reason humans have so many holidays so that we make time to be in community. But this first day of the year is remarkable. There is a palpable sense of the holy and the light shines through our celebrations.

We are also aware of the new beginning of the celebration of Jesus life and the messages through his presence in words and light. For me, to believe only that Jesus was born and then came to die and be resurrected are not the only main points of the story. For me, the main points are in the lessons that were emphasized in that unique way that Jesus used. We must live in the in-between time of Jesus’ life. The lessons of justice and peace, forgiveness and grace, honesty and support.

We have heard many words this past year that are antithetical to the words of love and grace and light. Words that turn to violence. On New Year’s Day I remind myself that I can use the word and the light of Jesus to reframe those words of hate. I can search for answers for injustice in words I use and the words I hear others use. I can be active in changing lives through sharing my light with the light of others. I can study and learn about the Word that came first and the light that shines through the cracks of hatred. I invite us, during this blessed Christmas season to take the light of the morning, the love of the morning, the sacredness of the morning into tomorrow and into the new year.

We have experienced the Holy Night and the Bright Morning – let us experience an in between time of joy through our actions in the coming days.

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