Sunday, December 23, 2007

CHRISTMAS: To Everything There is a Purpose

"Joyful all ye nations rise,
Join the triumph of the skies."
Hark! The Herald Angels Sing, a traditional Christmas carol

In these last few days before Christmas, we Flemingtonians are crisscrossing Main Street several times over, bustling about to finish up our last minute shopping and stocking up on food for our parties and dinners. The local churches are posting the times for their midnight masses and candlelight services. Mothers are wrapping and baking like crazy, wondering if it will all be done in time. It will because moms will make sure of it. Dads are putting up outdoor lights and decorations and then assembling those “just a few easy directions” toys that leave them wanting to pull out their hair. Why do we do it?

Christmas… On this day, we, in this cozy niche of Flemington, will join hands with other hands across the nations around the world for a miraculous celebration. For some twenty- four hours Christians and many non- Christians together celebrate a holiday for some and a holyday for others. I know of many who are not Christian but nevertheless join in the festivities that are meant to unite the brethren of the world within the flame that burns in the guiding heart of the Christian Messiah. Some of my students did. A former student, a Muslim Palestinian young man sent me Christmas cards for years. At one special Christmas, while I was teaching at Montclair State around the time of the First Gulf War, Ghassan and I spoke for a long time before parting at the end of the semester. We realized the realization that Judy Collins sings so touchingly. “From a distance you look like my friend, even though we are at war.” No matter anyone’s spirituality everyone understands the universal call to peace and brotherhood that this special season harkens. A heartfelt universal call to love and peace, common to all, is a call worthy of anyone’s reverence.

Movies such as “Joyeux Noel” and “Silent Night” re-count true stories in WWII about enemy soldiers who lay down their arms on Christmas Eve and sang “Silent Night” together. Despite the turbulence, this brotherhood of men finds their hearts united under the heart of their one Father through the teachings of his Son whose birth we stop much of the world for moments to revel in. On that day this brotherhood of hearts is potent enough to inspire enemies to engage in spontaneous ceasefires. Only a flame in our hearts can make this kind of irrational miracle happen, enemy soldiers, side by side, singing about a newborn infant who brings hope to an ailing mankind. We can do it, can’t we? Through the power of the spirit of Christ and the efforts of our actions, treating each other the way we want to be treated, we can have peace on earth and among ourselves as seen in these sporadic episodes.

No matter its origins, the much- berated commercialism of the holiday works for Americans. We celebrate our joy through pretty decorations and gifts and feasting, the production of which provides work for parents so that they can earn money to put food in the mouths of their children. The traditional Christmas carols unite us with thousands who celebrated over hundreds of year. These simple, well-worn verses continue to seduce us into a frame of mind of peace and hope in life. Then we exchange gifts just for the sheer pleasure of the giving. That brings me to Santa Claus, long condemned as a distraction from the true meaning of the day. I feel quite the opposite. For me Santa Claus is the most misunderstood part of Christmas. I see Santa as the Christmas centerfold because Christians hold that they are the children of a loving Father. Through his love, he shares his intelligence and his power to create life with his children for no other reason than the sheer pleasure his children will derive from his generous gifts. He provides a lush and fascinating universe in which we work and play, live and love. His gifts of himself and his universe were neither earned nor deserved. These gifts were given in abundance to us the same way we parents give our children and loved ones all we can afford, or maybe not afford at times, for the sheer pleasure of the smiles on their faces on that long awaited Christmas morning. If the Father Almighty is not the ultimate Santa Claus, I do not know Who He is. Giving freely with no expectation of recompense or gain is perhaps mankind’s most divine- like attribute.

The Christmas spirit nudges us to transcend our own human limitations and stretch our spirits to do what we often find so hard to do daily in our own personal lives. We do better than we think we can. Furthermore, the more frequently people of the world can join hands across nations, the greater is the chance our hope of peace with all peoples will be achieved. We go through the hectic preparations and expense because this holy holiday is most astonishing for the depth and breadth of the beautiful feelings Christmas can inspire. Each year that we celebrate Christmas reinforces what that powerful inspiration can achieve. We need more moments like this each year, not fewer. This is why we never should let go of Christmas.

Peace, blessings and joy to all of you. Merry Christmas! And, of course, God bless us, everyone across all nations through all time and space.

Stay tuned and fala, lala, la...

An Invitation : I write here from my own spiritual background. Likewise I extend the warmest invitation to those of other faiths to share their beliefs and customs with us. Please feel free to contact me if you wish to do so. All the best.

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