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Friday, January 14, 2011

By Request....The Christmas Letter

 Many of you have requested that I publish my Christmas Letter on my blog. I am touched by the many nice responses I have gotten. So, for those of you who want it again, here it is. Best wishes!

Dear Friends,

Peace be to you and grace from Him who freed us from our sin, who
loved us all and gave his life that we might be saved.

I must confess that after this most trying year, I was finding little
inspiration for this letter. But so many of you have told me how much
you look forward to it, I was moved to give it another go. I thought
for some time about what profound turn of phrase I might end with this
year. I looked for some angle or another, be it angels or carols or
Christmas mass. Nothing much worked. Then my dear friend Rick
Vanderslice suggested that I take it back to basics. Reflect on the
simple things. So here we go.

As we face the coming year, and as we end a year that was filled with
uncertainty, economic unease, political upheaval, warfare and needless
bloodshed, perhaps it is time that we take stock of those eternal
simplicities, those timeless gifts that can never be taken away.

As we enter this holy night, look for the beauty in the common. Take
the time to enjoy the wonder of rain. Think about how amazing it is
that moisture can be carried up into the atmosphere and dropped again
to the land, giving the soil the nourishment to produce plants and
trees and flowers that in turn grow up to sustain life by making
oxygen and giving food to breathing creatures. Think for a bit about
the miracle of our planet's placement from the sun. How that by some
divine science this ball of dust and water is the only place in the
known universe to have the perfect combination of air, water and light
to support life, and how diverse, unique and wonderful all that life
is. Take some time to look at a small animal, even your own cat or
dog. Give thanks that a little furry sentient creature can show such
undying loyalty, how it can sense when you're troubled and climb into
your lap to comfort you, how it cannot live without you, and how you
wouldn't live without it.

If you are a parent, look back upon the birth of your children. Pause
to imagine what an amazing sequence of biological events it is to
start from nothing and produce a human life. Look at the amazing
growth of those children; how they evolved and grew and learned, how
they went from utter dependence on you to being their own thinking,
feeling beings. Give thanks for the joy they have already brought you,
and for the limitless contributions that they might leave to the world
yet to come.

If you are employed, give thanks for your livelihood, and pray
diligently for those who need a job. If you are well fed, give thanks
for your food, and take the excess of your pantry and give it to
someone who might not get a meal today. If you are well clothed, take
that extra coat or garment and give it to someone who may leave his
house without enough on to keep warm. If you are surrounded by friends
and family, take some time in the near future and visit someone who
will spend this holiday, and every day after, alone. If you have a
skill, teach it to someone who needs a way to make a living. If you
have a voice, record a book for the blind.

Most importantly, think upon Him who was born this night. Try to live
by His example. Seek justice, and don't judge. Speak out against
oppression, and don't let selfishness impair the progress of another.
Forgive freely, and don't hold grudges. Think before you speak. Sleep
a night before you hit "send". Try to resolve a dispute through calm
reason and not rash words. Live because we only have today. Laugh
because your joy will lift the sad. Love, because love is the food of
life and we can only harvest and eat that which we have sown and
tended well.

And as for this night, and this celebration of birth, take a moment
before you sleep and look for a star. If it is still cloudy, light a
candle and set it in a place where you can walk around it and see it
from all sides. In so doing, remember that Christ Jesus came into this
world to bring light. Let that flame be the symbol of his love, let
the heat from that flame be the fuel and energy for your life. Then as
you awaken on Christmas morning, let that fuel power your life, drive
your soul and generate your dreams.

Live in peace my friends, and may the spirit of the Christ child keep
you in safety.

With all my love,