Recently I watched the 25th anniversary (aired in 2010 on PBS) of Les Miserable in concert. This musical is truly one of our family’s most treasured experiences after seeing the Broadway production. We loved the music, the message, the performance! As I immersed myself again in the power of the music and the story, there were two messages that struck my soul again. One was found in the power of the song, Bring Him Home… and the other in the lyrics, To love another person is to see the face of God. Look at the amazing concepts of those two titles. As I grow towards the winter of my life, I realize the power of “homing,” responding to the need to find “home.” The other is that I realize the essence of life is but one thing…to find, to feel, to know, and to give love.

At Christmas we so often go back to our roots as we reflect on Christmases as children, traditions we grew up with, and those we kept alive in our “grown up” families. So, as I pondered all of this, I grew so thankful for growing up in traditions that included the values I now live; growing up risking to learn, know, and love those who are different from me. As a child, my parents welcomed to our dining room table cultures of all kinds, people of any economic status…meaning those who were rich or poor, and those who were eccentric, lacking in intellectual ability, those who were broken and hurting, and those who needed the things our family could give…unconditional acceptance and love. I need no other gift in life than that which I have already been given by growing up in that environment of love and acceptance.

A story we no longer hear is the story of The Match Girl, by Hans Christian Anderson. I remember being touched so deeply when I first heard it in my youth, thinking about the little poor girl in the story who was looking for a place to be warmed on New Year’s Eve. This little girl who longed to be warmed and to be loved. She hadn’t sold any matches and was afraid to go home lest she be beaten for selling none. She sat in a cold corner between two buildings and dared to strike some of her unsold matches to catch a bit of warmth. In each flame there came a vision of something wonderful from a warm oven, to a cooked turkey, a lighted Christmas tree, and then to the vision of her loving grandmother. She hastily lit that last match and pleaded with her grandmother to take her lest her grandmother fade like the other visions…and suddenly her grandmother lifted her up and they soared into a halo of light far above the earth into the arms of God. The final essence of unconditional love and acceptance.

Can we shed that light and love on those around us who need it so desperately while we are here on this earth? Can we be courageous enough to look past the “they should be able to” thoughts and instead see a face of one who needs our love and care? Over and over I am reminded that we are not called by God to judge. We are called by the Creator to LOVE. Simply love. And when we do…we are privileged to see the face of God.