The Oasis - December 24, 2019

Author: Rev. Dan Hollis
December 24, 2019

December 24, 2019
by Pastor Dan

People keep taking off their gloves in order to shake my hand. I don’t know if it’s some ancient custom passed down from Aristotle or Benjamin Franklin, or if shaking hands with gloves on was considered the ultimate vulgarity at that one etiquette school everyone’s grandmother went to. As for me, truly I tell you, if you happen to be wearing gloves when the time comes to shake my hand, you don’t have to bother taking them off! It’s cold! It’s winter! There’s ice frozen to the bottom of my car! I haven’t felt my toes since October! As far as I’m concerned, a glove-clad handshake is no breach of etiquette. In fact, a glove removal for the sole purpose of propriety feels like a breach of sanity in this bracing weather, and I will not be the cause of it! I refuse to let societal constructs impose frostbite on the free-flying fingers of my fellows. No longer shall this injustice stand!

It’s the Christmas season at First Parish, and for the pastors, that means a great deal of handshaking. Christmas and Easter are particularly handshake heavy, requiring plenty of pre-service stretching and post-service hand sanitizer. And it’s a wonderful thing—friends and strangers greeting each other warmly and sharing the feeling of joy the Christmas spirit brings with one another. I love greeting everyone as they leave the Christmas Eve services. All the beautiful smiles and genuine fellowship—it’s a hallmark of the season (provided you aren’t jockeying for position in the line at the department store on Christmas Eve).

Did you know the “handshake” goes all the way back to the 5th Century B.C.? It started out as a symbol of peace—a way to show that neither party was carrying a weapon. Over the centuries it adapted in form and function: Knights would try to shake loose their opponent’s hidden weapons with a particularly vigorous handshake. What I grew up calling “the Beastmaster handshake,” that cool arm-clasp musclebound Hollywood action heroes would sometimes do, was popular in the ancient Roman world as a way to ensure nobody had any knives hidden up their sleeves.

Now, nobody’s ever searched me for hidden knives on their way out of church; however, as much as the handshake has changed and evolved over two-and-a-half thousand years, it is still a sign of peace. A greeting of warmth that seems to say, “We are equals. I recognize you and share this space with you.”

So this Christmas, whether you’re wearing gloves or not, whether you shake my hand or simply wave because you’re wary of germs, whether you’re at one of our services on Christmas Eve or I don’t see you all week, know that I greet you with what the handshake really means. Peace to you, my friend. I’m glad to know you and to share this frozen rock hurtling around the sun with you. And may you feel the same from the Christ who is born to us anew this and every Christmas Day.

“Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another; do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly; do not claim to be wiser than you are. Do not repay anyone evil for evil, but take thought for what is noble in the sight of all. If it is possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.” Romans 12:15-18

Pastor Dan’s song of the week: “Hark the Herald Angels Sing,” covered by Bad Religion.

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