It was the last night of a week-long retreat. We were seated in a circle. Each person was to anoint the next by making the sign of the cross on the person’s forehead and offer a blessing.
The leader used the words “Christ be with you,” and many chose to go with that. You’d hear an occasional “Blessings upon you” or a “Go in peace.”
But when the vial of oil reached the seventeen-year-old girl next to me, she made the sign of the cross on my cheek. Then she took my hand in both of hers and looked right into my eyes and said so very, very earnestly, “Jesus loves you so much.”
Something in me jolted. I’d heard the term “that really touched me,” but that may be the first time I literally felt the words hit my heart.
This time of year we bless one another with the words of “Happy Holidays,” “Happy Thanksgiving,” and “Merry Christmas.” The words will trip easily off of our tongues. We will grace strangers and loved ones alike with these words that are comfortable, acceptable and not at all intrusive.
But for many this year, whatever kind of seasons greetings we can muster just won’t cut it. For some, the holidays won’t be merry at all because of profound loss and grief. Others are dealing with economic struggles that keep the holidays from being happy. For many, there has simply been too much pain in 2020 for merry-ness to break in.
This holiday season I urge and encourage you to seek out those who desperately need more than a “Happy Turkey Day,” or a “Merry Christmas.” You may not be able to take them by the hand in this COVID era, but you can look them in the eye and say, “Jesus loves you so much.”
This is the Good News of the season. God help us to say it in ways that everyone can hear.
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Rev. Anne Russ is an ordained pastor in the Presbyterian Church (USA), currently based in New York City. Doubting Believer provides tools and encouragement for the rollercoaster ride of your faith journey. Follow us on Facebook and get emails to keep up with all that is happening.