I love the Christmas season. I see it as a living hologram crystal ball of the potential for humankind. It's not in clear focus, to paraphrase Paul, we look through a glass dimly. The oily film of things like greed and commercialism obstruct the view, but by God you can see it, you can feel it, you can sense it and you can even breathe it.
Love fills the air this time of year, and all the love to family, friends, co-workers, neighbors and strangers is awesome and it has the raw and glorious promise of our potential. And it looks and feels and smells good.
Our senses like soaking in love, that so much so most of us have fond thoughts about Christmas triggered the rest of the year when we just catch a whiff of peppermint, see a plump white bearded man, touch a sticky pine tree or have a Christmas tune pop in our head in August.
Christmas is more than the culture being saturated with love, it's the proof and the promise that we can be a better people, we can care, we can give, we can love one another more.
Christmas is evidence beyond a reasonable doubt that love matters - love makes a difference and we really can make it much more a part of our lives.
Love is transformative.
The Christmas narratives are about all of this power and promise of love stuff.
Every year, I preach about Mary (Jesus' mother) during Advent. Protestants have a habit of pretty much only thinking of Mary as the miraculously pregnant lady, who rode the donkey into Bethlehem on Christmas Eve and then kneeled before him in the manger with a proud and fond look of a new mother.
Nowadays, we also sometimes argue about whether Mary really conceived a child without a human male partner. A lot - I mean a lot - of people love the part of the stories in Matthew and Luke about Mary being a virgin - and many, many Christians are very comfortable accepting that is literally true. I am very good with that being an important part of the Christmas story.
I personally love it as a metaphoric truth that, like Mary, our conception of Christ is between us and God, but I am not a minister who insists believing Mary was literally a virgin when she gave birth to Jesus is essential to the faith.
When it comes right down to it, I do not know how opinions about Mary's virginity are critical to what following Jesus is ultimately about. What matters is that we believe in love and in loving - that's essential!
For Christians, what ought to matter above all else is that the Way Jesus created (and Christ still creates) helps us do those two things (to believe in love and to believe in loving); to in essence, spread love around.
And that is exactly what I see happening at Christmas in our culture. There is this great month of increased - out loud and in action - believing in love and in loving and doing both and celebrating both a whole bunch more than we do the rest of the year. It's remarkable, and it's beautiful and I unashamedly adore it.
And a part of my love for it is that clunky ordinary people like you and me are doing it. We are making a difference. We are helping bring about the breaking forth of the reign of God into the world in a very real and tangible way.
Peace on earth, good will to all is what we, as frail, broken, imperfect beings, want and believe in, and make strides toward achieving, with more love in our lives this time of year as we follow Jesus' way and we celebrate it. Merry Christmas dear readers!
The Rev. Scott Elliott is the pastor at Riviera United Church of Christ in Palm Bay. Visit Riviera UCC's website at rivieraucc.org and his vlog at http://www.youtube.com/user/AGodVlog?feature=guide.