I wonder sometimes how best to define courage. I see it all around me in places and people I know would never claim that the way they are walking through tough times is particularly courageous. But it is to me, most particularly in these 300 years of 2020-ness. I know of those who have received hard diagnoses and rather than asking the question “why me” are instead walking through it more with, if it had to be someone, why not me? They speak quickly of their wonderful family and friend networks, of their smart and caring medical folk, and bottom line, of how their faith in a wise and compassionate and awesome God is unending strength. I define that as courage even when they don’t.

Maybe courage looks different from the particular places we find ourselves. Our denomination continues to struggle with acceptance and inclusion of families with members in the lgbtq community. I say families because when one of our loved ones is condemned or made to feel excluded by a church, regardless of denomination, the entire family is hurt. I speak with families who, in the face of misunderstanding which turns sometimes too quickly to meanness, instead of becoming bitter or resentful, continue to search ways to offer education and awareness believing that if harsh critics simply understand more, they have the possibility of offering good spirit rather than judgment. I define that as courage.

There are folks in nearly every vocation and profession right now, who are holding to their integrity in the face of pressure, sometimes purposeful sometimes simply from a lack of information, from so many places and people. Normal, average, everyday people, not so different from you and me, who have never been so much in the spotlight for simply doing their job to the best of their ability. Yet with the stress of all that 2020 has brought from this pandemic, and our politics, and the economic strain, nearly everyone’s perspective on what’s right and wrong has somehow become magnified to the point of such frustration and anger. In the midst of so much sometimes distorted language and behavior, these folks continue to maintain their equanimity and faithfulness to doing their jobs with honesty and integrity. I wonder from a distance what the toll is on they and their families when they get home and try and relax. When the PPE is removed, when the title and position is left at the door for the next day, when the questions and anger and confrontations are laid aside for a night or a weekend. The emotional exhaustion must be overwhelming. And they get up and go back to it the next day. I define that as courage.

What might it mean if those of us watching at a relative distance, sent a note of encouragement and support? We may not know specific names, we may even wonder if a note would reach where we really want it to go. But maybe why not try? To hospital staffs? To Grocery clerks? To DMV and other governmental office workers? To Assisted Living and Nursing Care staff and administrators? To educators and local restauranteurs and postal workers along with firefighters, police officers, and paramedics? What about our neighbors who go the extra mile for that family or that widow/er who need a little extra something for life to be even a small bit easier?

What if we’re meant to be that person of courage for someone else? Not run in front of a train to save small children courage, but the braveness it takes simply to step outside our comfort zone of convincing ourselves what we say won’t make a difference, because what if it does?

I don’t think the celebration of Jesus coming this year is about getting and giving more stuff to each other. I think of all the years of all the times of all the moments of faith, this is the year to recognize one another in ways that are unexpectedly affirming and supportive, maybe most especially to people we don’t know personally.

Remember with me the person Jesus said would always be remembered for the act of kindness she performed for him? She is never named, but she enters a house uninvited, takes an alabaster jar of ointment and pours it on his head as he sits at a table. The disciples are uncomfortable with her act of extravagance and Jesus tells them that in this moment, she has honored him in preparation for his final moment on earth. (see Matt 26:6-13, other versions Mark 14:3-9, John 12:1-8, Luke 7:36-50). Maybe the fact that a version of this action is recorded in all four gospels might tell us how much Jesus values an act of kindness and honor that is unexpected. We know of his courage, maybe hers was in its own way, no less important for his journey.

It’s a gift we all can give, a recognition of another’s faith, integrity, and strength to face into each day with commitment to being who they are and doing what is before them with honesty and honor, even when and maybe most especially when, they believe no one is looking.

Blessings of the season friends, please know I see and am inspired and humbled by oh so many of you!

The music today is about my favorite Christmas song of all and this version with this artist is so beautiful . . . last line last verse . . . “what can I give him, give my heart . . .” so may it be!