Sunday, December 23, 2012

The Meaning of Christmas

~Appeared in the Charleston Gazette, December 23, 2012~

The Meaning of Christmas

Let us go now to Bethlehem and see this thing that has taken place,
which the Lord has made known to us. ~Luke 2:15

A man we hired to do some work in our home said to me, “I hate Christmas! I’ll be glad when it’s over.”

Stunned, I couldn’t let the remark pass without a response.

“We must remember the meaning of Christmas,” I said.

“Don’t start that religious stuff with me,” he answered rather curtly,

I felt insulted, embarrassed and hurt!  I was inclined to tell him to leave, or that I’d appreciate it if he’d show more respect for me since he was  in my home.  But, although it had taken me many years, I had finally learned to think before speaking.  After all, if I became angry, wouldn’t that give the impression that I wasn’t living my religious beliefs? 

So, thankfully, I managed to smile and remain calm.  In the end, he regretted his actions and apologized.

But after the man left, I thought about his attitude and his statement: “I hate Christmas!” And I felt sorry for him.  If he really feels that way, he’s missing so much.

How could anyone possibly experience Christmas without at least a degree of joy in his heart?

Without appreciation for the lovely Christmas carols playing continuously?

Without feeling like a child at the sight of colorful, sparkling decorations—brightly-lit trees shining from neighborhood windows, wreaths on doors?

Without a sense of love and charity?

Christmastime is a joyous season of goodwill and generosity—a time when the giving spirit is flowing freely. Everywhere, we see examples of people reaching out with kindness and love. We see compassion in their thoughts, words, actions and attitudes. We see expressions of generosity and thoughtfulness. Many are praising and encouraging others, or praying for those in need and sharing their own blessings.

Wherever you go, people greet you with happy smiles and the words, “Merry Christmas,” or “Happy Holidays.”

The delightful aroma of spicy baked goods fills the air as mothers bake cookies, fruit cakes and other delights for their families and for sharing with neighbors and friends.

The ways in which charitable deeds flow are endless. Those who express loving generosity, not only bless others, but also themselves.

Long ago, three wise men followed a star and were led to Bethlehem. There they found the baby Jesus and were filled with joy. Reverently, they offered gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.

Today, people the world over exchange gifts on Christmas, but the greatest gift doesn’t come wrapped in a package.  It is the unconditional love of God.  This is the gift that Jesus Christ lived and taught. Love is the gift that brings life to both the giver and receiver.

As we celebrate the birth of Jesus, we give thanks for His life, example and teachings and we acknowledge our birthright as children of the Most High.

I pray that everyone will open his or her heart to love Christmas and celebrate it by humbly giving and gratefully receiving the peace and love of God.

And on this day of rebirth and new beginnings, may we find in our hearts a willingness to do our part in making Christmas not just one special day in the year but a way of living life.

Merry Christmas!