Honoring the gift of Christmas
December 23, 2014
The "war on Christmas" mercifully ends today — or at the least, observes a truce that will hold for another 11 months or so. Perhaps both sides can now concentrate on what truly matters: not the trappings of the holiday, but its meaning.
Forget the debate over whether this decoration conveys a religious message, or if a passive observer should be actively offended by it. Who really cares about the origin of the tree or the actual date of a child's birth? And please, punt the petty disputes about what phrases cashiers should greet customers with in those secular temples of consumerism.
All that obscures the message of a child's birth in a stable 2,000 years ago. The Christmas story is, of course, sectarian. It proclaims that God that day sent the world a gift — a savior, His Son, Christ the Lord. That is a matter of faith. But one need not be a believer to embrace the sentiments behind this gift: "And on earth peace, good will toward men." Christians and non-Christians can appreciate that universal ideal — especially this year, in the wake of the recent tragedies resulting in loss in life in Ferguson, Mo., and New York City.
Alas, because we are human, we remain flawed, and do not always live by those words. We fall short in small ways, such as in our daily lives and personal relationships. And the world collectively fails in large ways — witness the death and suffering man wages against his fellow man all over the globe. Greed, lust and violence remain as troubling today as they did at Christ's birth. And yet, there are uplifting examples of the Christmas spirit all around us, every day, expressed in ordinary and extraordinary ways.
Treating our fellow citizens with dignity and respect meets the standard. Thank volunteers who comfort those who are ailing and lonely, or deliver a hot meal and casual conversation to an elderly shut-in.
Join those who donate to charity, such as The Wishing Tree program, to ensure that those in need can enjoy some of the material comforts of life. Praise the kind souls who not only pray for our men and women who continue to serve in harm's way in Afghanistan, but who also send pre-paid phone cards to military hospitals so wounded service members can call their families back home.
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These acts embody the Christmas spirit and transcend all the pointless bickering about who owns Christmas.
Who owns it? We all do. Its virtues are deeply embedded in the American culture, regardless of religious belief. Thus, to one and all, we wish you a Merry Christmas.
Permission granted to republish this editorial which first appeared in the Panama City (Florida) News Herald. Minor updating has been made.
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