It is Christmas Eve. Where is your heart tonight?
The reason for the celebration of this evening is the birth of Jesus Christ, known by Christians throughout the world as the true Son of God. If you are of the Christian faith, tonight your heart is focused on the greatest event of human history, and the message that it brings to you in this miraculous form has your heart turned toward the birth, life and lessons of Jesus. You are contemplating your own place in this saga of good and evil, earth and heaven, God and humanity, receiving and giving. You are humbled by your appearance in the story, seeking discernment about the nature of God’s hopes for you.
If you are of another faith, you are celebrating in a way reflective of those beliefs. If you are of a non-Christian faith, tonight your heart is nonetheless focused on a message of love and peace and community, the foundational elements of most faiths, many of which are also celebrated in this month. You are still in awe at this time of year, in which so many people seem to pause and wonder aloud if some semblance of peace upon the earth is not possible, after all. You are serene in both the moment and in the hope.
If you you are not a spiritual person, then you are celebrating this night in a secular enjoyment of family and the season of buying and giving gifts, and generally celebrating life If you embrace no spiritual belief, tonight your heart is focused on the occasion of being together with people you love, expressing your joy in gifts and good food, togetherness in celebration and laughter and joyful in what life has provided for you.
If you are homeless or otherwise of marginal means, you may or may not be celebrating. Circumstances don’t allow expenditures beyond the most basic of needs, and faith can be sorely tested if not accompanied by a decent meal and adequate shelter. Maybe there’s a wish for celebration that is eclipsed by a part of you that is empty.
Four very different scenarios, four life experiences, four different nights of expectation. And yet, I suggest that in each case, our hearts have been pre-programmed with the same inclinations for this eventide. Those sensitivities focus on the other.
If Christian, then surely you are struggling with the recognition to “love your neighbor as yourself,” against the somber recognition that so many of your neighbors are in despair. If Jewish or Muslim or Buddhist, you are called likewise to the love of the other, in pursuit of your faith tenets. If you are without spiritual affinity, you will experience this night the riches of your life, with an open window to how they dwarf the needs of so many others. If homeless tonight, you know the desperate longings for survival and self-esteem, while communing with brothers and sisters at the same lonely crossroads.
All hearts this night are ready to feel, to touch, to revere the life of the other. Sadly, not all hearts will embrace the invitation.
Where is your heart tonight….?