In 1958, John Steinbeck – Nobel Laureate and author – wrote a letter to his teenage son, Thom. Thom had recently confessed to falling in love with a girl at boarding school. His father’s letter in response, published recently in The Atlantic, is both charming and wise. As I read it this Christmas season, one paragraph caught my attention:
"There are several kinds of love. One is a selfish, mean, grasping, egotistical thing which uses love for self-importance. This is the ugly and crippling kind. The other is an outpouring of everything good in you – of kindness and consideration and respect – not only the social aspect of manners, but the greater respect which is recognition of another person as unique and valuable. The first kind can make you sick and small and weak, but the second can release in you strength and courage and goodness, and even wisdom, you didn't know you had."
In that paragraph is a lifetime, even an eternity, of wisdom. Twenty centuries earlier, another wise teacher named John wrote a letter to his church. John said, “Beloved, let us love one another, because love is from God … God is love.” I may be naive, but my faith is simple. I believe that the universe, and whatever it is beyond it we call God, exists for the sake of the kind of love that Steinbeck and the New Testament speak.
When I gaze into the manger in Bethlehem I see an outpouring of love, the source of everything good. It is a love that recognizes each of us as unique and valuable, love that has the power to release you in strength and courage and goodness. This is the love the Christ child will live and die to be. Let his life and each of our lives through his, count for the good. Let this Holy Night be a sign of God's infinite love for you: “Long lay the world in sin and error pining, 'Til He appeared and the soul felt its worth.”
Merry Christmas, - Pastor Mark