Rewriting the Narrative
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The old Christmas song says, “It’s the most wonderful time of the year.” And for the Christian it should ring true. Yet for many, Christmas is a season to survive. … Christmas has been hijacked by cynics, exploited by capitalists, and trampled by consumers. Christmas cheer comes under a withering attack. The checkout lines go on forever; we growl and whine when only one of ten registers is open. There is no charity in the mall parking lot; we hunt the elusive parking space like wolves. … Exhausted by cantatas, parties, shopping, feasting, families and travel, we arrive at the Bethlehem manger suffering from heat prostration. Christmas Eve will find us lifting up our weary voices to sing, “Joy to the world, the Lord is come.” Then we rush from the service to get one last gift, or visit one last party.
So soon it is over. We save the bows, burn the wrappings, strip the tree, and labor over our New Year’s resolutions. Too often we have missed the point. We’re like the man who goes to the coast but never sees the ocean. The threat of a holiday hijacking is all too real. Unless we engage our hearts in a true celebration of Christmas joy, we are easily caught up in a pointless and mindless holiday. When we lose sight of the meaning of Christmas, the season is deeply devalued. …
Christmas should draw us together to tell the world’s greatest story once again, and to share true fellowship. Jesus told of a woman who lost a valuable coin. She searched her house until it was found, and when that precious coin was restored to her, she called all her neighbors and friends so that they could rejoice together. The implication is inescapable. The good news is cause to gather those near and far to celebrate. …
Unless we reinvest Christmas with its glorious message and meaning, the holidays will pass like a pagan festival. Unless we truly celebrate Christ, the greatest story ever told will be lost amid the bells, bows and baubles. Make your holiday a holy day. Add another seat or two at your table. Set free whatever grudges or ill will you would hold on to. Sing the carols at the top of your voice. Tell Christ’s story with thanksgiving and awe. Wrap every present in love. You are the reason Jesus came. No one has more cause to celebrate than you do.—David B. Crabtree
Happy Birthday, Jesus!
If Christmas is Jesus’ birthday, why don’t we give Him presents instead of each other? And if it’s His birthday, instead of singing songs like “Deck the Halls with Boughs of Holly” and “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” why don’t we sing “Happy Birthday, Dear Jesus”?
Once when I was a youth director, they were having a Christmas program in our church. Everybody was supposed to bring a present. They drew names and you were supposed to bring a present for the one whose name you drew, and you weren’t supposed to spend more than 25 cents on the gift. I was a young teenager, and as the director of the young people at the time, I was trying to teach them to be spiritual and love the Lord. They were having this celebration that had little to do with Jesus, on His birthday!
So right at the height of the celebration I burst out with, “Happy Birthday to You! Happy Birthday, dear Jesus, Happy Birthday to You!” And it really drove the point home! Here we were celebrating Christmas, His birthday, with no presents for Jesus, no songs for Jesus.
I used to condemn the commercialization of Christmas and the millions of dollars people spend every Christmas, and all the celebration and trees and decorations. Nonetheless, it’s Christmas they’re celebrating, and they are almost compelled, at least once a year, to remember Jesus. So I have gotten to where I’m glad to see the world celebrate Christmas, and I’ve become more tolerant of Christmas trees.
I still don’t believe that December 25th is necessarily the exact day that Jesus was born, but as long as the world celebrates Jesus, what difference does it make what day they celebrate, as long as it’s Jesus they’re celebrating, and if it encourages them to remember Jesus once a year by giving each other presents and making the little children happy on Christmas, especially if they don’t forget to tell them what it’s all about.
That’s a nice thing about Catholic countries—they never let you forget what Christmas is about. They have manger scenes, the nativity scene, and they showcase them in the windows and they have them under the tree and they sing Christmas songs, and you don’t forget that Christmas is about Jesus!
So how do you celebrate Christmas? With Santa Claus and expensive gifts, a red-nosed reindeer and jingle bells? Or with Jesus and “Happy Birthday, dear Jesus” and presents for Him?—David Brandt Berg
Finding the joy of Christmas
So what is Christmas joy? If we are to believe the endless stream of television commercials, it begins with a brand-new car wrapped in a bright red bow and ribbon. Not so, says Pope Francis.
“The consumerism that leads to everyone being anxious December 24 because, ‘Oh, I don’t have this, I need that’—no, that is not God’s joy,” he told Mass-goers in Rome, reported Catholic News Service. Christian joy, according to Pope Francis, “comes from prayer and from giving thanks to God.”
As we approach the celebration of Christ’s birth, let us remember the three wise men, kings who came bearing gifts from afar. In one sense, they were the first gift-givers at Christmas. They serve as models of the generosity found in the human heart. Their example of sharing the wealth with a poor, homeless family offers guidance to us.
Like the Magi, we have three gifts to offer—if only we look deep within ourselves to find them. Our gifts are more valuable than gold, because they come from within, inspired by the Word made flesh.
The gifts we can share today cost nothing, but are priceless: respect, kindness, and time.
- Respect: Showing respect to others is a gift to ourselves and to everyone we meet. It’s a skill all people, from the very young to the very old, can practice. Sometimes viewed as a lost art, respect—for elders, for property, for the opposite sex—defines a civilized culture. Unfortunately, popular culture often promotes the opposite: disrespect through crass behavior, language and actions. Teachers will tell you that respect is a foundation for learning. We need to retrieve this virtue and pass it on to our children.
- Kindness: It’s the easiest gift to give, simply greeting people on the street, looking into their eyes, sharing a smile and saying hello. Practice a random act of kindness as you go about your holiday schedule by holding the door open for someone, giving up a parking spot at the mall, or being polite to the next telemarketer.
- Finally, the gift of time. Volunteers know the value of giving time to others. Caregivers, especially, know how shut-ins and nursing home residents appreciate visits from people. Even within our own families, spending an afternoon with a grandparent, an elderly aunt or uncle or a neighbor can lift the human spirit. Beginning this Christmas, make time for others.
There are other virtues we can share, but offering our respect, treating others with kindness, and giving time are good places to start. They can be our modern version of the three gifts presented by the Magi to our Lord at Bethlehem. They can also bring us the Christmas joy described by Pope Francis. Find an opportunity to share these gifts and know that by doing so, you will keep Christ in Christmas.—Sam Lucero1
Published on Anchor December 2018. Read by Jerry Paladino. Music taken from the Rhythm of Christmas album. Used by permission.