Today, Christmas Eve, will be a big day in my household. La Noche Buena is the day when Hispanic people celebrate, so tonight my son and I will celebrate our Colombian Christmas traditions. Tomorrow, we will celebrate American-style at Grandma's house. A few Mexican tamales will work their way into the festivities at some point, too. No matter what set of traditions we're practicing, as Christians we're all celebrating the same thing: the birth of Christ and His meaning in our lives.
For me, there is one passage in the bible that sums up what I believe perfectly. Luke 10:27 He answered: "'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all
your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind'; and, 'Love
your neighbor as yourself.'"
These few lines capture the essence of Christianity for me. Love God, not just with your heart, but with your head, with all your mind. What a beautiful idea! That, to me, says embrace new ways of thinking about God. It compels me to step outside my comfort zone to explore ideas different from my own, and to stretch to understand the point of view of others.
Love your neighbor as yourself, to me, is the very basis of all that Jesus taught us. He didn't judge, he didn't exclude. He sought out the kernel of goodness that exists in us all. He went out of his way, in fact, to seek out the least popular or most universally scorned people. No one was without value in His eyes, no matter what they had done or what others thought of them.
Love your neighbor sounds simple, but as somebody with a passel of crazy neighbors, I know first-hand how difficult this is. To get along with them, I can't judge them. I have to accept them for who they are, as they are, and try to turn a blind eye when they get on my nerves. I also have to assume that they probably find me to be just as annoying as I find them to be, and assume that they are probably cutting me more slack than I realize, whether I see it or not. Somehow - by the Grace of God, both literally and figuratively - our crazy little neighborhood manages to coexist more-or-less peacefully.
So this evening, or tomorrow, whatever your traditions are, as you celebrate I would ask you to take a moment and think of the one person who annoys you more than any other. Think of that person, and wish them well. Embrace them in all their crazy, frustrating, annoying wrongness. Hold up every one of their ideas that you disagree with, every reason why you just can't stand them, and for that moment, at least, lovingly accept them as they are. Remind yourself that they have a place in this world just as valid as your own. Somewhere in that person, there is that kernel of goodness, of sincerity and beauty. Although you might not ever see it, know it is there and that Jesus knows what it is and that He values it just as much as He values the good and the wonderful that is in you.
Last, but not least, I also ask you to give yourself a break. Most of us, I think, carry around a lot of baggage - things we regret, or feel bad about, or wish we had done differently. Let it all go this Christmas. The first step in accepting and loving others without judgment is to first love yourself without judgment. So in this season of gift-giving give yourself the gift of forgiveness and acceptance, then bless others with the same gifts.
Wishing you a blessed and very merry love-filled Christmas.