We are in that season of the year when cold hearts are felt most keenly.
By those who bear them and by those who bear the effects of them.
Like Ebenezer Scrooge, some of us will be compelled to face the block of ice that takes center stage in our chests.
Like Bob Cratchit, some of us will be compelled to face the coldness in others with as warm a heart as possible.
It is as though the air temperature and the meaning of Christmas conspire to throw human chilliness into sharp relief.
For, after all, this is the time when the Christmas candle, the blazing Yule log and the cup of hot punch reflect the warmth that we so desperately crave from each other in this, the most nostalgic and sentimental of seasons.
We are in that season of the year when our false-witness is most transparent.
I’m not talking about the telling of lies, but the living of a lie.
We speak of the need to witness and to bear witness; and there are those of us who would reach out to others, through “acts of charity” and “bringing others to the Lord”.
Yet what we forget is that we, ourselves, are witnessed; we are seen, we are observed.
And we also forget that our manner is observed.
For the “non-believers” know shockingly-more about our calling than we would care to admit.
They know what we were commanded to be and to do.
Love grates against coldness; and so our most visible outreaches are sabotaged…
…by the preemptory dropping-off of food boxes;
…by the cold clatter of coins in the Salvation Army bucket;
…by our hasty departures from situations where there may be “undesirables”;
…by the brittle smiles of the Christmas morning flock that fade as they hit the streets;
…by the brittle smiles that fade at the exact moment when warmth is most needed.
All of these things are seen; all of these things are witnessed.
By the stranger in the street and the child in our home.
I know that there are people who believe that coldness can be a reflection of love.
Just as I know that the meaning of love has been tied into pretzels, at times into Gordian knots, in order to justify all manner of behavior and ambition.
There are some who speak of coldness as a “correctional tool”.
Freeze them out. The shiftless jobless. Those whose circumstances so clearly indicate the lack of the Lord in their lives. Those who profess to be Christian but whose ways call for close scrutiny. Not to mention the addicts or the mentally or emotionally ill.
Perhaps your coldness will lead them to mend their ways.
Whatever you do, don’t do anything that could be construed as sanction or approval.
Which is, after all, part of our eternal Christian dance that would seek to reconcile the rod of chastisement with love.
So we strive to step out in love, hobbled by biblical and secular patriarchy, hobbled by our confusion of control with love.
Not that our spiritual dilemmas will impress either the stranger in the street or the child in our home.
They see what they see.
This business of Christianity is not about the chastising rod of the prophet, the Roman emperor, the ranting preacher or the iron-fisted father.
It is about what happened with the advent of Jesus Christ.
Which offered more than a change of theology.
It offered a change of heart.
God only knows, so many of us carry so many experiences, some of them connected with disastrous Christmases in the past, that we cannot get into the “feeling of the season”.
But, for heaven’s sake, we can avoid coldness as a matter of deliberate policy; we can avoid coldness as a matter of programmatic calculation.
We can avoid coldness as any justifiable expression of a Christian calling.
For it will not carry much weight.
You see, the point of all of this is to make a world that supercedes all of our preoccupations and prejudices and desire for control, and to get the child in from the stable.
I post new articles twice-monthly in “Author’s Corner”.
If you live in or near the Lakes Region of New Hampshire, and you would be interested in meeting with others for discussion and/or prayer, please contact me at email@example.com. All are welcome, regardless of identity or personal choices. Please understand that I do not have the resources to guarantee that I will be able to read or respond to all other correspondence.
Toward Dawn is a privately-funded outreach, and it neither solicits nor accepts contributions.
Rob Wright holds advanced degrees in education and performing arts, and he has been a professional teacher for over seventeen years. In his home denomination, he has served as a lay minister in liturgical, educational and ecumenical activities. He lives in the Lakes Region of New Hampshire with his spouse of twenty years and their daughter.