“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.” - Luke 2:14
I recall several times as a child being told that there was nothing I could do to make my parents stop loving me. I remember them looking me in the eye and assuring me that no matter what I did, they would always love me. To make a confusing concept even more confusing, they always seemed to share this thought with me when I had just done something to test the very validity of such statements. I mistook their claims of eternal loyalty as more of a challenge than a call for change. They showed their disappointment in my actions with little hesitation but I have to say, I never felt as if I wasn’t loved.
When I had my own son on Thanksgiving Day 2004; when I held him in my arms for the first time and felt the enormity of the life-changes he represented, I understood a miniscule amount of the undying love my parents showed to me in my youth. There was literally nothing I wouldn’t do to make this tiny, defenseless, life better. It wouldn’t even be a decision….I will always choose what’s best for him, even if it means I suffer in the process. There is no pain I wouldn’t endure for him. There is no battle I wouldn’t enter on his behalf. I would gladly cut out my own heart to save him from pain. These feelings are not exclusive to me as any parent will tell you. These feelings are not something that can be explained, reproduced, faked, or described. They are simply the feelings of parenthood. It’s been said so many times it sounds like a cheesy greeting card sentiment, but having a child changes everything.
I now know exactly what my parents meant when they spoke of unconditional love. My son could never do anything to make me stop loving him. Even if he showed up tomorrow in a Giants jersey with a Cubs cap on, I would still love him. I would make him eat outside, but I would still love him. My love cannot be earned and it cannot be lost. It’s his whether he wants it or not.
While my son can’t do anything to cause me to take my love away from him, I also know that I couldn’t allow harm to come his way. Even if harming my son would save the lives of thousands of other people, I couldn’t allow harm to come his way. Those who don’t have kids may know that level of commitment to another human being but they have never felt it as deeply as a parent will feel it for their own children. I couldn’t sit by and watch as agonizing pain befell my child, no matter what the cause. No parent should ever be able to make that decision.
No parent should ever be asked to sit by and watch while blood is drawn from the flesh of their own child. No parent should ever have to watch as people cheer the last breath of their child. It’s unimaginable to us and that’s why we celebrate today the way we do. We celebrate the birth of Christ because that's exactly what this day represents. Christmas represents the first day of a life we didn’t deserve to know. Christmas represents the life of a man we will never know how to fully appreciate. Christmas represents the fact that wonderful things can come from unimaginably cruel acts. A child changed everything.
Christmas is not a time for greed yet our greed was forgiven by Christ. Christmas is not a time for over indulgence yet the tradition reminds us of just how imperfect we all truly are. All except for one group. Children are excluded because they are perfect. They are perfect until our world corrupts them. Christmas is especially exciting for a child. The excitement of gifts promised. The simplicity of “be good for goodness sake.” It all makes for some pretty easy to follow rules. Our guilt chips away at that youthful bliss as we get older and realize the sins Jesus died to forgive were acts we have committed millions of times. Jesus paid our debt with His life and we repay him by creating new outlets for sin. Children are not guilty of such things and deserve this one day to relish in their innocence. We celebrate Christmas because despite all of our sins, mistakes, vices, and misjudgments…..we are all loved unconditionally.
So for today, go and celebrate all of your imperfections. Celebrate the fact that no matter what you may have done in the past year, you are forgiven. Celebrate the fact that no matter what you may do next year, you will be forgiven. Celebrate the strength He gave to a family member when your own love failed. Celebrate the love He sent to you through those around you. Celebrate the wars we wage and the flags we raise because in the end……we are all just children. We’re children who are playing childish games. Our planet, and all of the land we fight for…..it’s all just a big playground and our proud Parent is watching us play. A child already changed everything. On Christmas, it reminds us of the unimaginable debt we owe to God. He gave us His Son. He gave him to us. We will never be able to pay Him back for that and He will never ask us to. All he asks of us is that we believe in Him and don’t deny Him in front of our friends. Think you can handle that?
I pray for the family I have around me whether they’re in the same state or not. I pray for friends without whom my life would carry less weight. I pray for examples that enhance my world and I pray for heartache that brings forth a lesson because without pain we could not know bliss. I pray that I’m here to celebrate this very special day again next year but if I’m not, I pray that I leave behind more love than animosity; more joy than pain; more happy than sad. I pray for health, I pray for happiness, but most of all…. I give a prayer of Thanks for the gift this day truly represents.
Breathe easier because your mistakes have already been erased.
As always, thanks for playing!
J. Robert Giles