For us Vermont Christians, and maybe for many others, too, this is a difficult time of year as well as a joyful one. It’s the time of year when we, I’ll speak specifically of independent Vermonters –when we are asked to simply receive a gift. It’s the gift of new hope that comes to the world when a child is born. It’s the gift of wondering about what the future will bring to this new baby among us, and of dreaming of the best for the new child and for the world.
At this time of year we Christians are asked to accept and receive a gift for which we are not prepared and to which we have no right, except that it is a gift that was promised to the world. It is the gift of a holy birth on a silent night in Bethlehem, within a stable, warmed by God’s creatures, and praised by shepherds and angels. We’re not asked to do anything except be awed and thankful. That’s not easy for independent people.
What shall we do to deserve this gift? There’s nothing to be done. It’s all taken care of. It’s a gift. What shall we do so we won’t be beholden. Nothing. No strings attached. It’s a gift. What shall we do in order to make it worth God’s while to send angels and blessings and a child to us? Nothing we can do. It’s just a gift. We are the recipients. We can’t give it back, its arrival is assured, whether we are looking for it or not, and our hearts are designed to be made glad to know about it.
That’s the wonderful, difficult, joyful story of Christmas. A gift arrived on the doorstep of the world, and each of us is invited to open the doors of love and let it in. Unwrap it if you want. It is lovely and full of promise.
But you don’t have to do even that. The gift was given – and you may choose to accept it or not. But if you do receive it, the promise of God will become a promise to you, and your eyes will be opened to see not only the wonder of a child, but the wonder of the world.
That’s Christmas. Do what you want with it.
It’s a gift.
Rev. Dr. Marcia Dorey is pastor of the Halifax Union Society.