Christmas has come a long way since A.D. 353 when Pope Julius I first declared December 25 as the date for the celebration of the birth of Jesus.
As a child, I remember Christmas as a much simpler event as we gathered around the tree with the family taking turns to open presents and enjoying excitement that was worth so much more than the carefully wrapped presents.
Someone has said that the task of perceiving Christmas through its wrappings becomes more difficult every year and it does seem commercialism comes into it’s own as December approaches.
It reminds me of the story called the The Gift of the Magi by O. Henry where a beautiful young woman sells her hair to buy a chain for her husband’s pocket watch, and her husband sells his watch to buy combs for his wife’s beautiful hair.
Both sell their most valuable possessions to buy a gift for their loved one and end up with gifts that are of no practical use to them.
But most people hope for more than presents at Christmas. Deep down we believe that beyond the decorations, gifts and food there must be something more to life, something that will shift our attention away from fear and anxiety and towards peace and joy.
So, in spite of our ambivalent feelings about Christmas, we keep celebrating because we believe in something more. That’s why so many return annually to church on 24 or 25 December, seeking meaning, an anchor point and hope.
Yes, I’d like to reform Christmas, but in the end it continues to captivate me, not just because of the story it tells but because beyond all the decorations, cards and presents it reminds me, if only for a short time, what life can be like when we try.
Charles Swindoll summed it up this way:
“Some gifts you can give this Christmas are beyond monetary value: Mend a quarrel, dismiss suspicion, tell someone “I love you”. Give something away anonymously. Forgive someone who has treated you wrong. Turn away wrath with a soft answer. Visit someone in a nursing home. Apologize if you were wrong. Be especially kind to someone with whom you work. Give as God gave to you in Christ, without obligation, announcement, reservation or hypocrisy.”
Have a wonderful Christmas.