Father Robin Ruder-Celiz
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What is your favourite Christmas Carol . . . ? What makes it your favourite Christmas Carol . . . ? For me one of my favourites is not so much a carol, but a song: “Christmas Shoes.” I’m sure you have heard it before. It is about a boy who is trying to buy a pair of shoes for his mother. Luckily he has found a beautiful pair of shoes in his mother’s size. So he is all set to pay and take them home. Unfortunately he doesn’t quite have enough. So he pleads his case to the man standing behind him in the line (the voice of the singer). There is an urgency to the boy’s request. He can’t wait until he saved up a little more because his mother is dying and he wants her to look beautiful in case she meets Jesus tonight. I don’t know what it is, but this song gets me every time. Liz cannot understand why it is I never cried or shed a tear when either of our children were born, but this song will reduce me to tears every year!

Now I don’t either why this song brings me to tears and the birth of my daughters doesn’t, but this song does remind me of other experiences where I have been overcome by the generosity of strangers and the power of grace. One such example was when I was working as the Quick Response Nurse, or QRN, as it was referred to, for the Kootenay Boundary Region.

The afternoon started much like any other for me on my way to work. Working as the QRN meant that I had to travel from Castlegar to Trail and all points in between. Our role was to work in the afternoon’s and evenings visiting clients in their homes who couldn’t make it to the office for treatment. Because we were working in the afternoon’s, often we would act as workload for the regular shift and take on some of there overflow clients or procedures that they did not have time for. One of my routines once I had finished with the Castlegar clients was to pull into the Tim Horton’s Drive through just before I made my way to Trail. On this particular occasion something different happened. I placed my usual order of a coffee and a donut and made my way through the line of cars to pay. When I got to the window, the cashier told me that the person ahead of me had already paid for my order.

  A total random act of kindness, by a total and complete stranger. It is amazing that something so small and insignificant can make a lasting impression on a person. What seemed to have been an ordinary day, was no longer ordinary. Overcome with the generosity of another person, my outlook and attitude towards the rest of my shift brightened. There was a lightness in my step and as I made my way from client to client and back to the office, I would tell the story of how a complete stranger in a random act of kindness paid for my coffee and donut. It is a funny thing of course, because the person who paid for my order had no way of knowing what I had ordered. They had no way of knowing if my order was going to simply be a coffee, or if I was doing a coffee run for the office. For reasons unknown to me, they decided that they would take a risk and add my order to their bill, no matter how big or small that order happened to be.

  I know exactly how I felt when that happened to me. I know and remember how my day changed and my interactions with everyone else that day changed. Because I had been overpowered by Grace, that inspired me to be a better person, to bring out the best side of me, and in turn, one day a few weeks later, I was able to return the compliment, and pay for someone else’s order behind be in the Tim Horton’s Drive through. As what had happened to me, I had no idea who the person behind me was. I had no idea how large an order they were going to make - it is a risk I happily accepted because I knew that making someone else’s day brighter would be worth it.  

For me, this is part of the power that Christmas carols and songs have. This is the power and essence of the Christmas story and the meaning of Christmas. This is a power that inspires us to act with grace and live differently in the world. What we celebrate at Christmas is the outpouring of Grace from God to us in sending Jesus to be with us, like us and one of us in every way. A far cry from buying a coffee and donut, I know, but the affect is exactly the same. Because of this outpouring of Grace in the person of Jesus, our days, our lives and our world is made better. We know that, for reasons unknown to us, we matter to someone and we matter to God. What an awesome feeling, to know that we have a God that believes in us and loves us to the point that God chooses the human form to be with us in our world for all it’s faults. This is an act of Grace that, of course, can never be repaid. We are not supposed to re-pay God. God is not interested in that. Rather, God is far more interested in how we respond to grace in our lives. The birth of Jesus inspires us to be better people and bring out the best of ourselves. Because of Christ’s birth we are compelled to live differently and act with grace and compassion towards others.

The Christmas story is about God coming into our world to change lives. This is where God meets us in our brokenness and transforms us into a better way of being. We in turn, are  invited, because of the grace we have received to spread that grace to others we meet. In this way, the light that no darkness can overcome spreads through out the world, changing lives one person at a time.