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New Visions for Christmastide

There are 10 days left before Christmas.

10 days to feel bad about all the things we don’t get done or the presents we had wanted to give.

Just over a week until people newly grieving can call this one a wrap.

It is only days until we can put away Christmas sweaters, get some relief from advertisers flooding our inboxes, and store the plastic decorations in plastic containers until next year.

I am telling you though, I am not a Grinch.

I understand the holiday spirit that comes in moments like surprise snow in Nashville or being moved to tears by a classic Christmas song or wanting just one more puppy to join the family.

I have preached about seeing red ribbon taped to the door of a boarded-up house while wondering who was on the other side. I remember driving past Alive Hospice one Christmas, close to midnight, seeing a light on in a room, and wondering who was keeping vigil.

There are beautiful signs and wonders that make us proclaim the hope of peace on earth and goodwill towards men.

I applaud every person who by grace has found the will to sing their own Magnificat.

This year though instead of sugar plums dancing in my head I am picturing the women knitters in Ukraine, huddled with no electricity, knitting by the light of a headlamp.

When I think about the joy of stockings stuffed and bellies full, a thought will come rushing into my head reminding me of the moms detained at the border in cold storage, waiting for someone to offer the word asylum.

I believe our work is to keep the spirit of peace on earth and goodwill toward humanity alive and well. I also believe we must allow the reality of life to blend with our ideal visions of Christmastide.

So for this year's Christmas reflection, I want to share a story that I pray will give you an image of hope.

Once there was a woman in her early twenties who had known the short side of justice, the dark side of alleys, the backside of anger, and the underside of systems that perpetuate racial and economic injustice.

She was sent to jail and stayed there until early 2022. When she came out she was in her mid-fifties, on a walker, and needing to learn a whole new world.

From the beginning, she was gracious and funny, a reminder that while we can imprison bodies, we cannot kill spirits.

Since the day she arrived a team of women have loved and served her and tried to meet her exactly where she is and keep her safe.

This woman now has an occupational therapist, tutors, mentors, nurses, social workers, and managers— all cheering her on.

Even though the prison may have eroded her teeth, her smile lights up a room when she enters.

Next week she travels for the first time to a state in the northeast to visit her daughter and granddaughter.

She will spend her first Christmas in thirty-four years with family.

The rest of the image you can picture yourself: the moment they greet each other, how the light is reflected when they break bread together, the tenderness when they sit by the tree and open wrapped tokens of their love.

Fresh, beautiful and real images like these are the moments I want to hold onto this season.

They keep me grateful for every donation, every volunteer, and every buyer of candles at Thistle Farms.

I want you to keep these images shining bright for another year.

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