But I see good things that happened this year, too. In my own world, I see a family on the mend. We're fragile, but we are good to each other now, we are gentler, kinder. Across the globe I see random acts of kindness and beauty. I see moments where people have managed to put aside their differences and do right be each other in time of need or despair.
Friends, as you know, I celebrate Christmas. But as you also know, as I've said before, if you celebrate something other than Christmas, I wish you the very best of your holiday season. I wish you peace, joy, and prosperity in your lives today, tomorrow, and always.
Thanks to social media, I've "met" some wonderful people I probably would never have come across in my daily life here in suburban Wisconsin. I've made friends I cherish, though I will probably never see their faces in person. But social media is a mixed blessing, and I think we can all agree on that. I've lost friends, old and new, because in the social media world, it's apparently okay to scream at each other for expressing a belief or an opinion, and the screaming doesn't stop until it escalates to the point of no return.
When I was a child and my brother and I fought (which was very often) my mother would make us stand in front of each other and recite Ephesians 4:32 (I learned it in the King James Version)
32 And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven you.
Maybe I like this version a bit better. This is the Phillips translation and I've included verse 31:
31-32 Let there be no more resentment, no more anger or temper, no more violent self-assertiveness, no more slander and no more malicious remarks, Be kind to each other, be understanding. Be as ready to forgive others as God for Christ’s sake has forgiven you.
In my reading over the years, I've noted that the major religions of the world all have a similar command. Be good to each other. Love your neighbor. Help those in need. Be kind. Be loving.
We don't all agree on everything. Recently, Facebook went insane because some TV personality said something a lot of people didn't like. Well, whether I agree with the person, or with those on Facebook, it doesn't matter, and it shouldn't matter because what I believe, what I think, what my opinion is should not affect how I treat those around me.
Many people point to the Bible, or to the writings of their own religions as a basis to express something others find offensive, and so begins the war of words. My father lost a good friend recently of more than 50 years because they could not come to terms on their differences of opinion about politics. They agreed for most of their lives on religion, culture, food, family, all of that. But in one moment of political upheaval here in Wisconsin, they found themselves on opposite sides of the question and my father's friend simply refused to allow for my father's different opinion. And so ended lifetime of friendship.
34 “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”
I realize we will never all agree on politics, religion, or other things that divide us. Racism, sexism, bullying, those are evils that are going to remain no matter how hard we fight. It's a sinful, imperfect world and there are going to sinful and imperfect things here that anger us. But those things do not have to divide us so completely we lose each other. Words are just words. Someone uses one, someone else finds it offensive. Maybe someone, someone we've never met in person says something we don't agree with, but someone we know does agree with that person. In the end, words mean nothing. Politicians mean nothing, because all they are is words. Actors, celebrities, they mean nothing because they are just words. We will never erase words from our world, but we can add actions to the mix and make this place a better place for everyone.
So in this season of giving, let's give each other a break. In this season of love, let's love each other. In this season of peace...let's be peaceful with each other. Let's overlook each other's differences and stop the online shrieking long enough to take a breath and say, "How can I be kind to someone today? How can I be a flicker of hope in this dark world?"
Today I wish you all a very merry Christmas, and when I say that I'm not saying it to belittle anyone who doesn't celebrate Christmas. I'm saying it because it's the best way I know how to say, "I wish you well this holiday season," without getting too wordy. (I find saying more than a few words to strangers as I'm passing them on the street freaks them out a bit.) I wish you all the joy in the world. And if I say "Happy Holidays," I'm not turning my back on Christmas, I'm just saying I understand there are many who celebrate many things this time of year.
There will come a day when we won't have to explain ourselves like this. There will be a time when we can speak and understand each other and realize we really don't mean each other harm, we just use different words. In the meantime, and I never thought I'd be quoting Jerry Springer of all people, "Take care of yourselves...and each other."