My best present was a book I bought, started reading, and then never wrapped. Wrapping would've interrupted it. The Kite Runner, by Khaled Hosseini, is a fine work of literature; it's about growing up in an intolerant society with open religious and ethnic frictions; these lead to betrayals and cruelties, and to the author/narrator fleeing from and later returning to his country. Hosseini wrote the novel, I think, because he struggled over how to try for redemption on personal and political levels, and writing was for him a way to work some of those struggles out. In the process, he wrote a beautiful meditation on goodness and its opposites, on truth and its cousins.
Tolerance and national healing are good themes for sermons and holidays, and while I haven't had time in the blessed rush of presents, family, friends, and food to write a post, I've been thinking a lot about Christmas, as in, Christ's Mass. I have been thinking about Jesus. There have been new efforts to prove he never existed, that there is no historical evidence of him, and there's even a blasphemy contest going on around the internet; atheism can be as intolerant and as closed-minded as the religious zealotry it seeks to antidote. Mostly, arguing over whether Jesus was ahistorical on the one hand or was the Son of God on the other misses the point.
Jesus does not need a church, and never asked for one. Whether believer, un-believer, or blasphemy contestant, the point about Jesus was his philosophy. It held that striving to kindness, forgiveness, and spirituality is all part of the same thing: becoming a better human being.