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Humbug? Not for the true spirit of Christmas

Margot Arthur

Several years ago, a man in the state of New York decorated the roof of his house with a most unusual Christmas message. He flashed out his reaction to Christmas in electrified, blazing letter which spelled HUMBUG.

The man was neither a misanthrope nor an infidel, but a daring rebel against some of the present observations of Christmas.

Today, many people sympathize with or approve this insurrectionist’s sign protesting the noisy circus of parties, nerve-wracking sounds of commercials and the shopping crush which could turn even a reformed scrooge into a recidivist and make him again declaim Christmas as humbug. And it would be humbug indeed if we equate Christmas with presents and other material obligations.

“I don’t even want to think of Christmas,” says some who are caught in the ravages of unemployment and soaring prices.

Money may make the world go round but it does little for the soul. Trapped, beaten and worried as we are by the things going on around us, we tend to overlook our spiritual tranquilizer whose basic ingredient is love. It may come in an embrace, the smile of a child, the beauty of a sunset or a kind word. Although our intangible riches are countless, they are often lost in self-pity, anxiety or general tension.

How can we overcome the humbug syndrome? By believing in the Christmas message, hope!

“Hope? Peace on earth? Nothing but empty phrases,” cynics say. “We’re doomed and there’s no way out of it. I’ve stopped believing in miracles a long time ago.”

If we place the importance of our desires into proper perspective and learn to distinguish between passing and enduring values, new goals will open to us and give us hope.

If we desist from equating peace with the end of armed conflict and other international upheavals, and fight the war within us, we will find peace. True peace does not come from the outside but from within us.

Christmas is the ideal time for self-evaluation and putting our spiritual house in order. If we overcome matters that demean God’s purpose and capitalize upon those who glorify him, and if we love instead of hating, we clear our way for miracles. Is not the birth of a child a miracle?

“I don’t mind if I don’t get anything for Christmas,” some people say, “but Christmas is for children and they expect presents.”

There are two fallacies in this time-worn phrase. The first one is that Christmas is not only for tiny tots but for all of God’s children.

The second mistake we often make is in believing that children only care for material presents. Some time ago I read a letter from a father to his drug-addicted son in which he wrote, “This year I cannot buy you presents, but I will give you two hours every day of the year. We will spend them the way you like.” By giving his son the greatest gift of all, part of himself, this father helped his son to overcome his addition.

Those with empty bank accounts or reduced incomes can draw on the riches they have in their hands, eyes and creative minds. It takes little money to make a present. Girls can crochet, knit or paint presents for their parents and friends while boys can work together with their fathers and make a tray or small chest for their mothers. A home turned into a workshop may not be pleasing to the eye, but it is a scene of happy activities, good will and love. Working together and for others can mend families, rekindle the joyful expectation of Christmas and create gifts that will be treasured for a long time.

“I’m glad when the holidays are over,” a woman told me. “I always gave presents to some shut-ins and lonely people on Christmas, but not this year. We’re in deep financial trouble ever since my husband was laid off in January. We can’t even buy presents for each other, and I can’t go to these lonesome and poor people with empty hands.”

The best gifts we can give to those who are seemingly forgotten and are longing for brotherhood is ourselves. Presents given routinely often have the bitter taste of charity, while an hour spent with lonely or sick people conveys to them that there is indeed good will toward man.

More than ever, we need to think and believe in the child who was born in a meager manger, whose parents were poor, and whose only material wealth he left behind were his clothing. Yet, in spite of his lack of tangible riches, he gave the world the greatest gift of all, the promise of eternal life.

It is said that old-fashioned Christmas tree lights can teach us a moral lesson. It’s entire strand is only as strong as it’s weakest link. No matter how deprived or lonely we may be, each of us plays an important role. Therefore, we must not darken Christmas by failing to plug into its spirit and message.

Christmas humbug? Never! Let us drown the sound of this ugly word by spreading the joyful message, “Christ our savior is born!”

Margot Arthur is a resident of Carson City.