"So this is Christmas and what have you done" are some of the
immortal words in John Lennon's song, Happy Christmas (War is
Over). It's one of my favorites.
One could likely write an extensive commentary on those words as
they relate to our community, society and world. And that's just
the opening line.
The other day, I was partially watching/listening to the t.v. while
getting breakfast and preparing to go to the office. The t.v.
show, of course, was all about preparing us for the Christmas
"shopping" season. Alerting viewers to the new, have to have
products, the best deals, and what's hot. It's all lights,
decorations, Santa Claus and parties. Between segments the
commercials were doing their best to entice with steals and deals.
Emphasis was put on the idea that Christmas is all about
giving...gifts, merchandise, toys, electronics...yes...stuff!
It gave me pause and I thought..."and so this is Christmas and
another New Year", here we go again.
I'll be the first to admit I love the commercial side of
Christmas. I'm a big kid. I like everything about it, the lights,
trees, decorations, food, parties, and presents. I like receiving
presents and giving presents. I like Santa Claus, his elves,
Rudolph, and all the other reindeer. I like driving around looking
at Christmas lights on homes and businesses. I like hot chocolate,
hot cider, cold weather and snow! There's not much snow in Texas,
especially in our area. In fact, it looks like it will be another
hot Christmas. Its 80 degrees as I write this, but growing up in
New Jersey I had plenty of cold and snow. In fact, some of my
fondest memories are walking to the church in the snow to attend
midnight mass. There is a strangely magical and special feeling
that you get as you walk in the quiet of the late night enjoying
the crispness of the air, and looking at all the homes lit up with
their Christmas decorations. Back then, it seemed as if almost
everyone had a nativity scene in their front yard. The feeling you
got was one of true peace and tranquility.
While I enjoy all the fun and commercial parts of Christmas, and
recognize it is a perfect time to acknowledge, appreciate, and show
kindness and love to those you know in the form of material gifts.
It is ancillary to the heart, and soul of Christmas.
As many of you know, I'm blessed to have an extremely diverse group
of patients. I love to hear about everyone's beliefs, rituals,
heritage, ancestry, religion and customs.
During a conversation about Christmas and presents, one young
patient said they exchange gifts and her cousins put up a tree and
decorate. I said, "but you're Muslim and don't celebrate
Christmas". She replied that the holidays are fun and they like
the presents. So, of course, being the sarcastic person I am, but
in a nice way, I said, "If it's all about presents then why not
celebrate Hanukkah that way you can get eight days of presents!"
Well, we had fun talking about it. But it made me realize there
are all kinds of people that celebrate Christmas and the holiday
season because for many, it's all about Santa Claus and presents.
The Santa Claus we know and love today is a modernized,
commercialized adaptation of the original Saint Nicholas-a real
person and a Bishop in the early church. He believed in and
practiced Christ's teachings that we help those in need. Now,
Christmas is more about those in, want!
Christians have to navigate the mine field of Christmas, reminding
others and ourselves of the history of Christmas, the truth of
Christmas, and the reason we celebrate. Christ, Jesus was born!
I am saddened that we need to commonly justify or clarify the
intent of Christmas by saying such things as "the real reason for
the season" or the "true meaning of Christmas" or "put Christ back
in Christmas". I guess we are compelled to do this because society
as a whole has diverged so far from the truth.
Merry, are those who sell consumables in a country that zealously
worships consumerism almost as much as a religion. The message of
Christian religion-the message of Christmas is virtually being
overshadowed, diluted and paved over by the message of
consumerism-buy, buy, buy!
The message of Christmas is of a love so powerful that God
presented humanity with the greatest gift ever given. It is a
continuous everlasting gift that in my mind comes in three parts.
The first is the miraculous birth of a baby, the Son of God, made
human, named Jesus. The second part of the gift unfolds and is
revealed as this baby becomes a man who lives amongst us and
teaches us daily through his words and actions about the kingdom of
God. Last is the ultimate gift, some 35 years later when the gift
is fully manifested in the ultimate sacrifice-the crucifixion of
our Lord, Jesus.
Of course, I realize that not all people share the belief that
Jesus is the Son of God. For some He is simply a historical figure
and others don't believe there is even a God. There are many
religions and belief systems. Everyone's entitled to their
beliefs. I can honor and respect them. But if one is to celebrate
Christmas, they should be at least aware, appreciative of, and
respectful of the truth of Christmas. It is the joyous celebration
of the coming of the Lord, Jesus Christ into our lives. He came to
love, cherish and teach us and eventually die for us. Now that is
a spectacular gift!
God's gift connects us so intimately with Him in a very obvious
human way. It serves as a supreme example-a sort of gift of all
gifts. What larger expression of love can be demonstrated than the
gift of a life...a Son.
We should be encouraged and even inspired by God's example to find
ways of giving part of ourselves to others who can benefit by what
we have to offer. Our love is free and our time, expertise and
talents can be given as gifts.
Understandably, the joy of Christmas that many experience can also
be an extreme burden and time of sorrow for others who are
suffering from their own problems or from the loss of family.
There are people in great need, physically...emotionally. Perhaps
there is some gift that you can give to one of them. Something
you've created or built with your hands-something that has a piece
of your heart and soul.
Perhaps it's the gift of visiting the elderly, and sitting quietly
as you listen to their stories. Find someone to connect with this
season, in a human way. You'll not only be blessing someone else's
life, but giving an everlasting gift to yourself.
"So this is Christmas and what have you done.
Another year over and a new one just begun...
And so this is Christmas, I hope you had fun.
A very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.
Let's hope it's a good one without any fear."
I wish blessings upon each and every one of you, your friends and
family during this Christmas season and each and every day. May
peace and freedom be yours with health and prosperity following you
all the days of your life.
Merry Christmas to all who believe and happy holidays to all who
Dr. Rick Barrett
P.S. To find people in need check with your church, synagogue,
The Salvation Army, The American Red Cross, nursing facilities,
service organizations like The Rotary Foundation, Kiwanis
International, Lion's Club or your neighbors.