The angels’ message to the shepherds announcing the good news of the birth of a Savior spoke of peace on earth toward men of good will. We could use a little more of each. Two thousand and twenty-one years later, peace is still elusive and good will even more so. Still every year at Christmas, we repeat those sentiments and hope that the season will bring new reasons for hope.
The birth of Christ brought hope to the world and as we celebrate each anniversary of that birth, we renew that hope for peace and mutual good will among people. Even during the darkest days of our Civil War and two World Wars, there are recorded instances of brief pauses in the fighting to celebrate Christmas and to pray and sing carols, sometimes across battle lines.
Each year there are words spoken about the “real” meaning of Christmas but they often miss the mark. We’re told that Christmas is about giving, often resulting in an orgy of Christmas shopping and stress over what to give to whom. That’s great for sales and profit and no one should begrudge the revenue that merchants may require to make their entire year profitable. The three kings brought gifts to the infant Jesus but somehow today the giving of lavish gifts while others starve, lack shelter and struggle to heat their homes doesn’t seem to be exactly what Christmas is all about. Think, then, about including the needy through your favorite charities on your Christmas gift list.
When asked, many answer that Christmas is mainly for children and for the annual visit of Santa Claus laden with gifts. That’s a wonderful sentiment and tradition but it’s certainly not what Christmas is all about. Christmas is for everyone, not just for children. But while you’re planning the best Christmas ever for your kids, think about including charities that provide clothing, toys and treats for needy children on your gift list.
Christmas season is a time for church celebrations including Christmas concerts featuring the beloved classical Christmas music of the masters which has inspired worshipers for generations. The past two years, however, has seen a precipitous decline in church attendance. Covid pandemic precautions contributed to part of that but the start of the decline preceded the pandemic. For many Christians, attending church is just a twice a year event, mainly to enjoy the pomp and ceremony of Easter and Christmas celebrations, including the beautiful religious music beautifully sung and played by artists. Sadly, some churches have cut back on music programs which contributed so much to these celebrations for decades.
America was founded by Christian pilgrims who sought religious freedom and has prospered among the nations as a nation under God. Our values, traditions and culture are based on Christian-Judaic principles. For most of our history we have celebrated Christmas as a Christian holiday while extending Christmas greetings and blessings not only to other Christians but to all people of good will. We did, that is, until it became politically incorrect to do so and “Merry Christmas” became “Happy Holidays”. But Christmas refers quite specifically to the annual celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ. To Christians, it is more than just a happy winter holiday, it is a holy day. After Easter, which celebrates not the Easter bunny, but the resurrection of Christ from the dead, it is the holiest day of the year.
Good will to all men refers to an attitude of friendliness and cooperation toward all. Christians are commanded by their faith to love their fellow humans, including even their enemies. Indeed, of all the commandments, love is the greatest. Love toward one another is hardly a universal trait in the world or in our nation today. I’m not optimistic that this will change much this season, but there is aways hope.
Merry Christmas to all. Try to love one another. That’s the best gift you can give anyone at any price.