Merry Christmas, everyone.

Today, Christians around the world are celebrating the birth of a dirt-poor, brown-skinned Jew to teenage parents who would almost immediately become undocumented Syrian refugees.

The Christmas story is inherently a subversive story. It upsets conventional lines of class, religion, nationality, and gender roles. Sojourners did a really good, quick read on the topic I highly recommend. The best part, though, is:

“He’s important not because of what he has or where he lives, but because of how he brings love, healing, and reconciliation into the world. Same with us.”

I love that “same with us”. To my ears, it sounds exactly like Luke’s “go and do likewise”.

In the Judeo-Christian tradition, God has more names than you can shake a stick at. Perhaps my favorite, though, is Immanuel. It means “God with us”. The name comes from Isaiah, in the Old Testament, where the meaning of “with” is a little ambiguous. In the New Testament, though, Matthew makes it clear: this isn’t just a question of God being “on our side”, but rather actually with us. Down in the dirt.

I decided back in November that I wasn’t really going to do “presents” this year (except for a few I’d already ordered). Instead, this year, for each of the 12 Days of Christmas, I’m going to support an organization doing a different kind of good work which needs our support (and then tell you all about it). I had tried doing this for a few years a while back, and it felt like the right way to approach Christmas—but then got awkward when it was time for friends and family gift exchanges. That seems like a silly reason to stop, though, given the context, so I’m going to give it a better shot. Maybe writing about it will help.

I’m going to start of with an organization that does some amazingly good work… including for modern Syrian refugees: the International Rescue Committee. As the humanitarian crisis in that country continues to escalate to horrifying new levels, I’m really grateful folks like the IRC are doing what they can to alleviate some of the suffering. I just picked an amount and donated, and you might consider doing so, as well (they even take Apple Pay if you’re on an iPhone, making this probably the easiest donation I’ve ever made on every level). If you’d like to see what a given dollar amount can buy, they have a neat page laying out how safe passage out can be had for just $36 or a year of school for $58.

It’s hard to imagine anyone taking the call to “go and do likewise” more seriously.

One of my favorite parts of the Bible is the opening to the Gospel of John, which gets wonderfully mystical, retelling the creation story in more poetic terms. It contains this beautiful line:

“The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.”

This Christmas season, I hope to remember that no matter the darkness, there is a light that shines through regardless. Like the candles in the Christmas Eve service, the light shines brighter by us sharing it with each other. And that while the dark can indeed be terrifying, it has not, can not, and will not overcome the light.