For years now, everyone has been complaining about the lack of Christ in Christmas...Santa is the great commerical icon for the holiday...he's meant to be the secular equalizer...you can "believe" in Santa and Rudolph and Frosty without having a stake in any religion...even one of my favorite classics, Charles Dicken's A Christma Carol, first published in 1843, takes a rather secular view of this holy season. So the struggle to find the true spirit of Christmas is an old one.
I guess it is up to each individual and family to keep Christmas in our own way...but we need to be mindful, thoughtful and patient with one another. If celebrating Christmas is not your "thing", that is your choice, but if you so choose, please do not be put out by the traditions and celebration of others.
I am thrilled that this is a holiday season...Christmas, Hanukkah and Kwanza ...there is even "Festivus for the Rest of Us"...thank to Frank Costanza...it is wonderful to see the signs and symbols of all these celebrations. It is wonderful to share and learn other faith and family traditions. I see this as an opportunity to grow as community but sadly, more often than not, we hear story after story about public holiday displays and events marred by court orders, protests and complaints because there must be a separation of Church and State...God, prayer, thanksgiving, tradition and so on have no place being mixed up in schools, Town Hall or even on public commons...what??
Have we become so insensitive or overly sensitive, that we cannot find common ground? Can't we share faith, hope and love without having to foster an agenda?
So I believe in Jesus Christ...I believe one should treat others as one would like others to treat oneself. I believe and follow the Ten Commandments...and I seek forgiveness when I do wrong. Each day I hope to leave the world a better place than when the day started. These are some of the foundation of my faith tradition...how I choose to live my life...and if you are interested, I'd be happy to share my views and values with you...but I would never impose them upon you...the lights in my windows are there to remind me of my faith, my family, our traditions and to share our joy with our neighbors...we do not intend to offend...and yet, we cannot control how others feel...you have to own that one.
In A Christmas Carol, Scrooge awakens to find he has not missed Christmas and in his personal epiphany, he promises to keep Christmas in his heart and try to keep it all the year. I try to live this way too...so perhaps that is why one of my character flaws pops up from time to time during the holidays... I get so impatient with people trying to cram kindness, charity and even religion into the 30 or so days between Thanksgiving and Christmas Eve. Christmas is a holy day of celebration. It is filled with beautiful rites and rituals and a beautiful story of miracles and hope, which continues through the Epiphany in January.
For me, the story doesn't end...we need not close up the book (in this case the Bible) and tuck it back on the shelf until next Thanksgiving...no, the message of Christmas lives all year long...the ornaments and parties...they are kind of the exclamation point for the message...but the meaning is found in each person we meet in the days after...and the gifts we give ourselves are the relationships we form and share in those following days.
So back to finding Christmas Spirit...we're listening to holiday music...except for WHAM's Last Christmas...ugh...I've baked all the favorite cookies...we have friends stopping by for our annual Christmas Eve Open House...and we are bringing the Spirit...we are not looking for it...it is in us!
We came up with a list to help us be more thoughtful, avoid hurting feelings and honoring the meaning of all the holidays celebrated at this time of year...maybe our list will offer some holiday cheer to you!
- Keep your expectations real...we do not live in a Hallmark Holiday Special.
- Remember you can only control your own feelings and actions
- Be thoughtful and kind. If someone wishes you Happy Holidays and not a Merry Christmas...accept the goodwill and do not seek injury where none is intended.
- Remember to say please and thank you...sometimes we are in such a rush, we forget to be polite!
- If you get an invitation to a party or gathering, let your host/s know if you will or won't be coming...a quick heads up either way is kind and if you are not attending...prevents worry, overbuying and waste for the host.
- Do not think that if someone makes a charitable donation in your honor, they "cheaped" you out of a present...remember it is the thought that counts and the giver thought enough about you to include you in their goodwill.
- Write good old fashioned thank you notes...it is a wonderful tradition and again, demonstrates that it is the thought that counts!
- Christmas and I think it is fair to say the other holiday observances are NOT a competition. We give gifts because we care and think about you...gifts are not a measure of worth...gifts are an expression of well wishes!
- Take time to pray or meditate. It is a fact that the holidays are crazy...a fact we can only minimally control...prayer centers you again and refocuses your spiritual energy to deal with the crazy that is out of your control!
- Do not judge a person until you've walked a mile in his or her shoes...especially during the holidays!
- Remember that love is patient and kind...
- And if you cannot say anything nice, do not say anything at all.