December Decency
Posted on December 19, 2016

As daily we inch closer and closer to Christmas, I find myself reflecting on what a deep and decent season of the year this is. We all know the deep part – the invasion of human history by the Divine, the coming of God in the form of a Child: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” We know the deep part.

Additionally, though, I am genuinely grateful for the “decent” part. There is, for lack of a better word, an inherent human decency that shines through in December more, I think, than at any other time of the year. People are stressed, but most are still kind. People are hurried, but most are still patient. People are frightened, but most still extend smiles. People wrestle with doubts from theology to theodicy to self-criticism, but most are still spiritually open in December. People dream of what they may receive and write letters to Santa for what they desire, but the stores are crowded because we are givers who go out in mass to buy things for others. Charitable giving increases in December. Church attendance increases in December. People begin to build bridges rather than walls during this month. And, as Robert Frost so rightly observed: “Something there is that doesn’t love a wall.” (from his poem, Mending Wall)

I was at a dinner table recently, stationed between two individuals I know casually. I do know them well enough to be aware that they voted differently in November. So, I was worried that before the night was over their political passions might erupt into a debate in a public place. It didn’t happen. Instead, though aware of one another’s differing opinions, they treated each other with senses of grace and civility that we all wish we had seen in the presidential debates. It was a December moment when the too-often buried sense of human decency emerged. We need more of that – more of December.

As I listen to my favorite Christmas music (which is all I listen to this month), almost every song brings a memory. They are memories of home growing up, memories of little churches in the country where I began this sacred work, of congregants from years ago, and old friends, and family members who made me who I am. And the common link that threads them all together has nothing to do with how successful they were, nor how rich, nor how popular, nor how powerful. One-by-one I remember them as simple, sincere, decent folks – folks who honored faith and family, folks who believed in sharing what they had (which was sometimes on the low end of enough) with those who had less, folks who offered smiles and hugs, folks who knew how to say “Thank you” and greeted everyone in December with “Merry Christmas!” And for them that greeting was not a synonym for “Hello.” It meant more. They honestly wished for you what they intuitively knew you needed most. I remember the people who shaped me, and person-by-person they understood that love matters more than race or creed or politics or economics or gender or age or anything else. Their common link was this: At the core, they shared a common human decency.

At the core, there is a sense of common human decency in us all. Too many keep it suppressed eleven months a year, but it always shines through during this month. Personally, I wish we had more Decembers.


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