Christmas has come! Our hearts greatly rejoice! Our Redeemer is born! Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace to people of good will.

An otherwise whimsical Charlie Brown Christmas card I received this year contains a splendid message that reads: “If there ever was a doubt, the Christmas story settles it forever—God really does love us!” I think that just about says it all!

By the birth of Christ, we have all become instruments of God’s peace. This being the case, now is the acceptable time and our personal and collective commission from Christ to sow love wherever we go, even in the face of opposition or hate. We are to be people of pardon and reconciliation, never seeking to injure, but to heal. We are also people of faith, who believe in God, who is Love, and so we strive to replace doubt in our hearts and the hearts of others through a living and vibrant faith.

In an age of despair and hopelessness, we must never lose sight of hope in God, in His eternal plan, and our important place in that plan. Surrounded so often by darkness, light is needed and Christ our Light is asking us to light one candle, instead of cursing the darkness. Along with that comes the importance of being messengers of joy, where so often sadness engulfs people of our day and age.

All of what I have just described is based, of course, on the famous “Prayer for Peace” ascribed to Saint Francis of Assisi. His prayer goes on to say that rather than seeking to be consoled, we should be people who prefer to console others, especially the sorrowing.

We all want to be understood, but the real priority should be that of seeking to understand others. Not just tolerate them, but walking a mile, or even a few feet, in their sandals. Doing so we will likely arrive at a completely other perspective about our neighbors.

It boils down to really loving and not worrying if we are loved enough. In this season of giving gifts we should not worry so much about what we can take or receive, but strive to be givers of the gifts of time and talents, being generous so that others can flourish. And in the process we ourselves will flourish. It’s the message Jesus consistently taught.

Mixed in to all this is the essential ingredient of pardoning, even seventy times seven times, meaning always, and thereby find ourselves being pardoned. Yes, first and foremost by God, but pardoned by others as well. And how do we attain the eternal life to which Christ came in the flesh to bestow on us? Saint Francis expresses it in terms of dying, to self, and putting others first. Thereby we will encounter real life and ultimately an eternal dwelling place in the God’s House.

How many Christmases have you seen? I  have seen sixty-seven (“I kid you not,” as TV host Jack Parr used to say eons ago). You, maybe more or maybe less. But each and every Christmas is a golden and joyful opportunity to renew in our hearts what the Christmas story is all about: “God really does love us.” Life is not all about me, but about God’s love for me and for all of us, who do our best, admitting our failures, but always getting up and carrying on.

No one is an island, and together we form a firm foundation, built on the Rock, who is Christ. Christ is our hope. Christ is our Redeemer, our peace and our joy. In acquiring Christ, we lack nothing and have everything. The 1960s pop singer Janis Joplin once sang a silly song, which included these words: “O Lord, won’t you buy me a color TV?” Isn’t life so much more than that? In fact life and the Christmas message has nothing to do with acquiring material goods, but spiritual ones, that will last, and carry us to the other shore, where God will be all in everyone.

Christ be with me,

Christ within me,

Christ behind me,

Christ before me,

Christ beside me,

Christ to win me,

Christ to comfort and restore me,

Christ beneath me,

Christ above me,

Christ in quiet,

Christ in danger,

Christ in the heart of all that love me,

Christ in the mouth of friend and stranger.

A blessed and Merry Christmastide to all!

Abbot Christian and all the monks of Christ in the Desert