The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America


The greatest gift of all

Our lives of joy, suffering and, finally, death and rebirth are in God's hands

The root of Christian love is not the will to love, but the faith that one is loved. The faith that one is loved by God" (Thomas Merton, New Seeds of Contemplation, page 75; New Directions, 1972).

What a splendid year I've had: thinking and writing about God's care for us. Now the months have swung around again to a festival for a remarkable birth, which makes all the difference.

At first glance, Christmas seems far from theodicy — that question about God's love and justice in the face of human suffering. But in truth the day is profoundly at the center. My beloved Victorians largely invented our modern celebration — cards, gifts, decorations, trees, feasts, a reformed Scrooge and a Tiny Tim waving his crutch, piping, "God bless us everyone."

Unfortunately, a fireside of cheerful spirits returns to hoarfrost in January. In the real world, flint-skinned misers don't bring gifts of goose to the "deserving poor." Tiny Tim, likely as not, dies young.

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December issue


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