By Dr Moni Storz

It was many years ago when we arrived in London to be met with a snow white Christmas. We were told that we must go and have high tea at the London Ritz by those in the know. Naive tourists then, (and seasoned global gypsies now), we trotted off only to be nearly turned away - all because a certain man amongst us was not wearing a tie. Not only was he without a tie, he had on his made-in-India sandals and decorated by a pair of made-in-China thick woollen socks. Bright yellow in colour, of course.

The doorman at the Ritz was exercising a form of customer service rare these days. Without blinking an eyelid and with the famous English politesse, he opened a cupboard near the entrance to the hotel and offered a tie to our Aussie dressed companion. ( I wished he would lock up this companion of mine.) Thinking about Christmas, this Ritz incident comes to my mind and in particular, the graciousness of the Ritz gentleman. Yes, he was a gentleman of the old school and appropriately, he displayed a graciousness that did not belittle our immaculately dressed Aussie.

Graciousness comes from the word grace. It is a word that is magnificent in meaning and sweet to the tongue. We say someone graces our table with his or her company. We say s/he is graceful. Both meanings suggest someone magnificent and elegant. Someone who gifts us with their presence. Or they give us a favour. In an old dictionary of mine kept in my holiday shack and forgotton for twenty years, I discovered these words pertaining to grace: the love and favour of God, divine influence renewing the heart.

Christmas is about grace. It is God's grace that He gifts his only Son to save us, human beings. For a long time I could never fathom the meaning of this saving business in Christianity. After all, how could I have sinned when I was born. As a human being, I was born beautiful and pure (and still am according to my Buddhist/Taoist/Hindu beliefs). In these beliefs, I was born divine and have the potential to be a buddha, an enlightened being, just like all human beings.

Recently while contemplating on the mystery of life, and reading a book about how Jesus knew about reincarnation and had travelled across to India, or at least he had contact with Indian philosophy and yogic beliefs, I had an insight. Is it not possible that Jesus was an enlightened being, a bodhisattva or buddha in the Taoist or Hindu sense, and that he had chosen to be reincarnated in the form of a human being to alleviate our suffering? I asked myself in contemplative wonder. Is that what is meant when Christians see Christ as the saviour of the world. Possible.

To achieve grace in all great religions and spritual beliefs, it is necessary to submit to our inner buddha or god/goddess. A form of surrender in body, mind and soul. How challenging that is. By accepting Jesus as the saviour, as the son of the Judeo Christian God, as the messiah, requires a certain surrender too, and the relinquishing of our belief in the concrete external world of science and technology, of supermarkets and consumerism and our ego-know-all-ness. We would also have to relinquish our cynicism about organised religion, dogma and priests/nuns, choir boys, etc. We must not throw out the baby with the dirty bath water.

This Christmas, I hope that we will let grace enter our life and let us ponder on the lifeworks of a humble carpenter and Teacher whose most powerful message to all of us Christians and non Christians alike: love one another as God loves us, no matter what we have done. Jesus was a worker like you and me. A carpenter by trade. He was born in a manger to poor parents but the wisemen brought expensive gifts. The gifts borne by the three wisemen were well known; gold, incense and myrrh. Perhaps the gifts we bear for each other this Christmas should be informed by grace and worn in clothes of love, not famous brands and big price tags.

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