Each year as the Christmas season gets underway, I am always drawn to those wonderful memories of what Christmas was like from the eyes of a small child. The memories of getting up and running to the Christmas tree to see what Santa had left where the squeals of delight from not only me but from my sisters must have been loud enough to wake the neighbors. The joys of three little girls finding dolls and clothes and candy can still be heard in my ears all these years later.
I can also still see my Dad coming in and pretending to be excited with us and trying to act like he wanted to know all about what all Santa had brought. And there was Mother, trying to get us to leave all this long enough to eat breakfast. She usually succeeded but only long enough for a quick bowl of cereal or a Danish and then back to the mayhem.
I also remember when Christmas was filled with Christian values and the Christ Child had a central place in the celebration. Nativity scenes were seen in almost every public place as well as many residences. Churches had displays on their lawns and special programs were given several times during the weeks preceding Christmas.
It was the teaching of the values represented by the Christ Child that gave the family unity and kept the church at the center of the community. Those values kept the conscience alive and gave people a sense of right and wrong that we are sorely missing today. Old-fashioned guilt went a long way to keep someone from committing crimes and in general doing things that are not only harmful to themselves but to society.
Without the influence of the Christ Child, children don’t learn to love and forgive and share. They don’t learn that differences can be accepted, not just tolerated. They don’t learn that fighting for the right to live free is sometimes necessary and justified. And, of great importance, they don’t learn to forgive themselves for not being perfect. Perfection is a great goal and one that should be given every effort, but our humanness is always between us and the pinnacle. Only the Christ Child can teach that lesson in a way that gives us the ability to forgive ourselves when we fall short. Only the Christ Child can set the example of the supreme gift to others that makes us want to help our fellow man without expecting anything in return. Only the Christ Child teaches us to love, truly love, others.
We give and receive gifts from friends and family at Christmas because the Christ Child gave us the first gift of himself. His gift was motivated only by love so great that He came as a helpless baby into this world so He could teach us about love and forgiveness and obedience to a God greater than man can imagine.
His gift should especially be remembered at Christmas which is celebrated for Him. It is the time of year when we should all think about those less fortunate more than at any other time. And while you are creating mayhem with your own children and hearing the squeals of delight, think about those who will not be having that experience because they have no home, no Christmas tree, and no gifts to share. Think about those who don’t know about the Christ Child and His love that was so great we can’t imagine it.
Maybe this year a good way to find our way to a better world is for each of us to give something to a complete stranger instead of a friend or family member. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if everyone took one gift and put it in the Salvation Army bin or the Toys for Tots box? Or maybe instead of buying that new shirt or pants that we don’t really need, buying it for one of Clark’s kids instead? There are so many ways to show others the love we were shown that we can surely find a way to give that gift to at least one person this year.
Bless yourself while you bless others. Merry Christmas.
"The King will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.' Matthew 25:40