Saturday, December 11, 2010



Christmas is what we choose to make it

As you read this it is Christmas Eve. Some are glad the whole exciting season is almost over, when, in truth, it has actually just begun.

So many distractions come every Christmas season. Every Christmas we tell ourselves it will be different this year; we’ll even attend church. Enjoy the choirs and hymns and remember it is all about the coming to earth of the Prince of Peace.

Year to year, there are those without a Christmas tree, wreath or gifts for their children. Or as in this war, loved ones unable to be together for Christmas. When it is the first Christmas without a loved one for the first time, the time can easily becomes a painful experience.

For the many who are lonely and even unhappy this Christmas, for any number of reasons, pause --- pause and reflect. At home or church, hospital or retirement home, pause – reclaiming the “now” of life instead of repeating “what if---?”

The Advent, or coming of the Christ to earth, is an event in itself. The days of preparation (after Thanksgiving Day and Black Friday) have a special meaning and preparation for Christmas. Seldom considered is the fact that day Christmas Day is the beginning, not the end, of the celebration. As a boy my mother never took the tree down until mid-January. Keeping alive the spirit of the season.

In a perfect world, after the 25th of December has passed, the parties and good deeds begin. We celebrate after, not before, the traditional event of Christ’s birth. Just as Christ brought the promise of hope, the season should be the revival of more hope for the future.

A colleague from Denmark told of his family putting up a Christmas tree or wreaths late on Christmas Eve. I identify with that custom. It announces something big and important is about to take place. The family enters the next day, thankful for the suddenness of, as well as the glory of Emmanuel, “God is with us”.

Lest this is too “sermony,” keep in mind that materialism is not going away. Don’t let commercials interfere. Think of the joy a Santa Claus means to many children. The simple poem ‘Twas the night before Christmas, helped make Christmas a commercial success. But it is also one of the most moving ditties of the season.

The commercial aspect is a significant part of the traditions of the season. Some thoughtless individuals tell us there is a “war on Christmas.” Not so! Except for disbelievers and people of other faiths, Christ is never left out of Christmas or Xmas.

My Aunt Mae Johnson was generally upset at Christmastime by the use of “Xmas” for Christmas. The use of Xmas in English is not an attempt to secularize the holiday. It actually puts Christ at the very center of Christmas.

The “X” and “P” are the first two letter of “Christ” in the Greek language of Jesus’ day. Since X in English has a different meaning and use, English speakers have mistaken Xmas as leaving Christ out of Christmas. The abbreviation Xmas expresses ideally the heart of the celebration.

John Calvin, a great 16th century Protestant reformer, was opposed to the bad things that were associated with Christmas. And there were many appalling observances in many cultures and countries. But John Calvin kept the holiday as celebration of the birth of Christ and saw it as a matter of liberty for the churches and the individual.

It is well known that the Puritans, in England and later New England, opposed Christmas. Puritan pastor Cotton Mather felt there was no biblical or historical evidence for it representing the birth of the Christ. There is no evidence, biblical or historical for a Christmas holiday. Traditions, even if tainted with myths, are what we make of them..

Christmas is what we choose to make it. Make it such a good season of peace and love that it carries on into the New Year and all the remaining years we have. Choose well.

Towery Column for Christmas Eve, Friday, Dec. 24, 2010
(Brownwood Bulletin; San Angelo Standard-Times) (672 words)

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