Grace, a Christmas gift for all

By Sarah E. Reynolds | Dec 27, 2019

So my brother-in-law said I should write something about grace. Not necessarily an easy topic, but definitely right for the season. I'm not quite sure what he had in mind, but here are my thoughts.

Grace is what I think the spiritual life is really all about — the gift to be able to put down our burdens of anger and resentment, to see ourselves truly as God's beloved, with all our imperfections. Grace does not erase our faults or our hurts; indeed, more often than not, it uses them to its own ends. Because I was afraid to drive, my long-ago partner showed her love by getting into a car with me behind the wheel and gave me the gift of her confidence. That was grace.

Grace requires our humility; we must let go of our illusions of self-sufficiency and merit and simply receive with open hands and hearts what we long for as a gift. What we feel we deserve is not relevant. It isn't even part of grace's equation. Yet it is hard for us to release the need to feel that we have "earned" grace — to simply trust life and acknowledge that we are not in control.

We're clutchy and grabby, most of us, always one disappointment away from falling into resentment. When we do, grace smiles sadly at us and settles down to wait until we're more receptive again.

Even though our society has become very secular, we are more receptive at Christmastime. Something about the image of a mother giving birth in humble circumstances, of God coming into the world as a baby to restore humanity's lost innocence, touches our hearts and reminds us once more of our own lost innocence and the people who (if we are lucky) nurtured our beginnings.

I never approach Christmas these last 15 years or so without thinking of beloved family members who are gone, and the rituals that made my childhood and young adult Christmases feel special — the songs, the ornaments, the cookie-baking, the gatherings. And these memories are also a kind of grace, because they fill me with the love of those absent dear ones and with gratitude for their presence in my life. Moreover, they assure me that no one I have loved is ever really gone as long as I hold them and all they meant to me in my heart.

The poor child of Bethlehem still has power to save us — from cynicism, selfishness, hyper-individualism, pride, resentment, loneliness and all the many ills of the spirit that beset us. His grace requires only our willingness to be changed, only our desire to be made new, only our total trust.

I will end with a verse from one of my favorite Christmas carols, "All my heart this night rejoices." If you don't know it, you really should look it up on YouTube. It was written in German by Paul Gerhardt and translated by Catherine Winkworth.

"Come, then, banish all your sadness,

one and all, great and small;

come with songs of gladness.

Love him who with love is glowing;

hail the star, near and far

light and joy bestowing."

I wish you a blessed Christmas and a joyful holiday season.

Longtime Courier Publications staff member and columnist Sarah Reynolds is the editor of The Republican Journal.

Comments (1)
Posted by: Mary A McKeever | Dec 27, 2019 12:43

Thanks Sarah and wishes from here in AZ for you to have a Happy New Year.....Stay healthy!  ...Mickey +:0).....

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