Note: This was first published on Christmas Eve of 2009. The world is dramatically different now. This year, 2020, we are suffering through a pandemic, harsh and seemingly punitive lockdowns, school and business closures, and a subtle yet brewing social, civil, and cultural war. The message this essay intends to convey, however, is timeless.
No matter where you go or what you do, at this time of year, you cannot avoid the marketing and advertising “blitzkrieg” that has transformed the Christmas season into some horribly disfigured mutation of the original point of the holiday. Thanks in large part to the political correctness movement, and this idea that public displays of religion and faith… most especially Christian religion and faith… are now considered offensive to the smaller numbers of non-believers, and should be constrained wherever and whenever possible.
All the while, as this unwinnable cultural Civil War rages on, there are vast numbers of innocent bystanders out there around the world silently suffering through a sadness or anguish or heartbreak or loss that those cultural Civil warriors could scarcely comprehend let alone personally endure or overcome.
Each of us – from every faith and lack thereof – would be well-served by the reminder that, for some, the Christmas holiday season is not necessarily a happy or joyous time of year. It should inspire you to take pause, long enough to see beyond the gadgets and baubles and trinkets and consider the lives and circumstances of our less fortunate brothers and sisters around the world. It should encourage you, as well, to be just a little more humble, a little more generous, and a whole lot more kind… not just to your friends, families, and loved ones, but to the nameless & unfamiliar faces of “your tired, your poor, your huddled masses” that you encounter as you walk freely about the cabins of your everyday lives.
While a lot of us are busy with family and friends and parties and School vacations… or festivals and parades and shopping malls and fancy-wrapped packages… there are far too many among us who are barely holding on by a tattered and unraveling thread. For some, this is perhaps the worst time of the year. Overwhelming feelings of isolation and sadness and devastating loss can be renewed or heightened.
As well, this time of year can serve to deepen those feelings of helplessness and hopelessness, and despair. There are many without family or friends or loved ones to share the season with. There are some that have been abandoned or forgotten or pushed aside. Some have chosen to give up on the world altogether… giving up on themselves and everything they once were.
This year there are people huddled in a cardboard box under a bridge somewhere or curled up in a dark alley far away from anyone they have ever known or loved or cared about. There are people, too, sitting in a dark room out there somewhere, staring at the pistol in their hands and thinking about their future… and wondering just how much more of it they can bear to envision.
There are brothers and sisters out there who, having lost their jobs or their homes (or both), that find themselves angry and bitter and resentful of a God or a Government or a peer or a loved one that could have helped make a difference in their lives that chose not to.
It is during this season, under the banner of “faith, fellowship, peace on earth, and goodwill toward men, that I encourage you to keep whoever fits any of these descriptions, in your own life, especially close in your thoughts and prayers as you move through your own Holiday season traditions. I also encourage you to look beyond your own lives… if only for a few moments… and consider reaching out and connecting to some of the random strangers you encounter over the days and weeks ahead. A smile, a warm wish, a handshake… even a kind and simple gesture… might just save someone’s life or completely turn it around and pointed toward a new and better path.
Christmas is meant to be a time of reverence and remembrance and showing goodwill toward men. It is meant to be a celebration of life, a renewal of faith and fellowship, and an expression of love and generosity toward others. It’s not about trees and sleighs and stringed popcorn. It’s not about Target and Macy’s and festivals of lights. And it most certainly is not about diamonds and baubles and ordering online.
As Christ’s birthday passes and the dawn of the new year celebration breaks, helping a loved one, or even a total stranger, or even an estranged or forgotten friend or family member to get through another day should be on the very top of the list of “resolutions” you will NOT break as you stride happily forward into the new year.
[Image cred-The Guardian]