"And the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us."
As this holy Christmas season draws to a close the passage cited above from the Gospel of St. John keeps circling in my mind. It is John’s attempt to put words around and help us to understand the mystery we have been celebrating — God’s creative, consoling, challenging and redeeming love made fully and perfectly available to us in Christ the Lord.
John’s words have spurred me to open my heart to that mystery in my prayer and thinking. I have tried to be alert to the ways in which I see God’s love made visible in the people, events and circumstances of everyday life. One of the deep joys of my ministry is the privileged opportunity it affords me to be in the presence of people who try to live in the mystery of Christ. Sometimes I see that in their search for healing and wholeness. At other times it shows forth in the quiet efforts people make to bring hope and peace and companionship into the lives of their sisters and brothers, their efforts speak a healing word to others; and in the speaking they help the rest of us understand the mystery of God-with-us.
In addition to trying to be alert to God’s love alive in others, I also have been drawn to reflect on the beauty and power of our precious gift of speech. I refer primarily to verbal communication but certainly include in the concept all of the ways in which we impact the lives of others through word and gesture. Do my words bring life and hope or do they depress and discourage? Does my speech encourage reconciliation or does it drive a wedge between people? Am I inclined more to pay a compliment to my neighbor or to point to my neighbor’s fault? Am I as willing to ask a question as I am to provide an answer? Do I try to be funny in a way that causes pain or embarrassment to others?
In an era when so many write and speak out about a lack of civility in our public discourse or complain about how coarse our culture has become, I do believe that the themes of Christmas call us and enable us to make a positive difference.
There’s no one way to do it but all of us, if we wish to nourish and share the Christ-life we bear, need to use our precious gift of speech in life-giving ways. To whom can I offer a word of encouragement? Or consolation? Or congratulations? Or gratitude? Or pardon? I am convinced that if we were more liberal than we are now in speaking such words to others we would hear them more frequently ourselves. And would that be a constructive way to up the civility level of our discourse? And to sand down some of the coarseness of our culture?
Peace to all.