Christmas is almost here. It seems like the signs of Christmas have been with us a long time. Every year it seems to get earlier. Businesses try to gather as many sales as possible. Thanksgiving is no longer the dividing line as to where the activities of the holidays begin. Many people, myself included, lament the fact that Christmas has become one commercialization of a sacred holiday. For just once, let’s examine some of these often used observations.
Christmas is the time when we celebrate the birth of our Savior. Most everyone agrees that December was likely not the month he was born in. No one knows the exact day or month. Even the year was probably somewhere between 2 and 7 BC. The ancient Roman world celebrated other secular festivities during this time. Christianity aligned the birth of Jesus with these secular gods at the same time. On a personal note, my grandfather would not go to Christmas Eve services because he thought it was disgraceful to celebrate such a sacred event with the other secular holidays. (He had a lot of interesting ideas!)
Christmas is both a very personal experience, as well as a sharing of the spirit with friends and family. In a recent quote by Caroline Kennedy she says,
“Sharing the holiday with other people, and feeling that you’re giving of yourself, gets you past all commercialism.” That seems to be the key to feeling the true Spirit of Christmas. One can be overwhelmed with all the problems and crises in the world. The terrible destruction in the Philippines as a result of the typhoon is one calamity the whole world feels. Of course, there are many other examples in our country and throughout the world.
By reaching out to others by giving of ourselves often helps recapture the meaning of Christmas. Whether our actions involve helping others such as those affected by natural disasters or by neighbors who have fallen on hard times, our personal and collective effort is important.
When I was growing up, Christmas giving was exciting to me. I could hardly wait to get home after Christmas Eve services to open presents. As I got older the type of presents changed. It seemed to move from toys to clothes. My mom was very aware of treating us with some semblance of equality. For instance, if my brother received a flannel shirt, I knew I probably would get one, too. As I look back now, I realize it wasn’t the gifts that were important. It was the fact that we were all together. As my mom would say, in her realistic and somewhat pessimistic way, “You never know when we might not be together again.” Her dire predictions have come to pass. My parents have both passed and my siblings do not live all that close. Traditions change because circumstances change.
Page 2 of 2 - However, the original childhood memories remain very precious to me. They are memories I will not forget.
So the commercialization of Christmas is going to happen. It remains up to each individual to deal with it in their own way. I remember a long time ago when I was teaching, the doorbell rang just as Christmas vacation had begun. I went to the door. Two brothers were standing there holding a present. Both of them had been in my classes. They were not great students and not the most popular in school. However, they had come to my house to give me the gift of a Harley-Davidson tie. They did not have a lot of money. I will never forget their act of generosity. After all these years, I can still get choked up over this selfless act of giving.
So in the long run, Christmas giving is not usually about the present but more about the gift-giver. As Ann Schultz says, “Let us keep Christmas beautiful without a thought of greed, that it might live forever to fill our every need, that it shall not be just a day, but last a lifetime through the miracle of Christmastime that brings God close to you.”
Christmas is a lot of things to many people. It involves the intangibles in life. Even though we may be bombarded with the shopping frenzy of the season, it should be a joyous time. However, for many people that is not always the case.
Health issues, relationship problems, and future plans are among life’s uncertainties. This season is about hope and love. It is my prayer that you will experience the joys and happiness of Christmas. And in some way all of us will discover the peace that only the One who came down to earth can give to us.