Make a difference this Christmas
At a time when many people are feeling “compassion fatigue,” I take cheer from an essay written by Marilynne Robinson, our American novelist from the heartland, who has written a prescient essay in the New York Review of Books. Ms. Robinson writes from a theological perspective, and the essay is titled, “A Theology of the Present Moment.” It was also delivered as a lecture at the Chautauqua Institution last summer.
She wants us all to know that we are more important than we realize, and that it is our ability to give that changes the world for the better.
Our gifts. Our encouraging words. Our sacrifices. She quotes the Puritan divine John Flavel who said: “We will be judged twice, once when we die and once when everything we have said or done has had its final effect. Whisper a cruel rumor - who knows what force it will acquire if it lives?” The Apostle James writes in the New Testament, “So the tongue is a little ember and boasts of great things; how great a forest is set ablaze by a small fire! And the tongue is a fire.”
Thomas Merton wrote that the heroes of our time are the people who quietly go about keeping their promises and offering their best to one another who are holding the world together. A force like gravity that is so basic that we are largely unaware. Grounded in God. Allowing life to flourish. Bowing down to no idols, which is a way of saying that putting our trust in less than God will disappoint and lead ultimately to dead ends.
The world is dying and a new creation is coming into being. Quantum physics has broken through mechanistic determinism as a way of understanding the world, and new life breaks in if we will: our world, our families, friends, neighbors. They are a gift. We care in return, and that is our gift. And yes, we do make a difference. More than we know! Merry Christmas!
Reverend Bruce M. Shipman of Groton is a retired from an Episcopal parish in Litchfield County who now is remotely the priest-in-charge of Holy Trinity Episcopal Church in Oaxaca, Mexico.
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