Thursday, December 24, 2015

A Christmas Message

Merry Christmas! Happy Holidays to all!  Déjà vu all over again.  I wrote the following message in 2012.  I just re-read it and can’t believe how it is all the same this year.

"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, 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, recognizing it being the perfect time to acknowledge, appreciate, and express in the form of material gifts, it is secondary to the heart, soul and message 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 caused me to realize there are many people that celebrate the commercial Christmas and the holiday season because for them it's all about Santa Claus and gifts.

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.   Today, 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 as their form of 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, teach…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.

“To one who has faith, no explanation is necessary.  To one without faith, no explanation is possible.” Thomas Aquinas (c. 1224-1274) Philosopher and theologian

Merry Christmas to all who believe and happy holidays to all who believe differently.

Blessings for a beautiful Christmas and New Year,

Dr. Rick Barrett

P.S.  To find people in need simply inquire  with your church, synagogue, The Salvation Army, The American Red Cross, nursing facilities, local service organizations such as The Rotary Foundation, Kiwanis International, Lion's Club or your neighbors.

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