Hot Diggity Dog! It is December and that means Christmas is just around the corner.
I love Christmas. I love it today and I loved it before it became politically incorrect. Anytime someone tells me “Happy Holidays,” I thank them and say “And a Merry Christmas to you, as well.” If it is to a store clerk, I will generally get a knowing smile. They would like to say “Merry Christmas,” too, but it is against store policy.
As I write this, I have no idea what the terrorists in the Middle East are planning to do to try and spoil the season for us. Vladimir Lenin, founder of the Russian Communist Party (remember them?) is quoted as having said that the purpose of terrorism is simply to terrorize. That seems to be the intent of this bunch of barbarians, but they won’t win. In the long haul, evil never does.
A lot has happened to Christmas since I was a lad and it hasn’t all been good. We have allowed our detractors to secularize one of our two most holy days and we seem helpless to know what to do about it.
Clearly, something is wrong. According to the Pew Research Center, adults in this country who profess to have no faith affiliation now number nearly 23 percent of the population. That’s up roughly 50 percent over the past seven years. I have an idea that nonbelievers think we believers don’t always walk our talk and that there is nothing holy about us or our holy days. If I am correct in my supposition, maybe it is time we took a good look in the mirror.
We get so hung up on ritual and our My-Way-Is-The-Only-Way attitude and in trying to prove our point with narrow interpretations of one verse of one chapter in the Bible that we miss the big picture of what Christianity is all about. It is about loving our neighbors — whether they are black, white, gay, straight, believers or nonbelievers — as ourselves.
It isn’t about prayer in the schools. It is about prayer in the home. It isn’t about whether the Ten Commandments should hang in the courthouse; it is about whether or not we choose to live by them in our own house. It isn’t about hating our enemy; it is about praying for those who persecute us. (That’s a tough one.)
Maybe the secularists and nonbelievers think they have done an effective job of removing public displays of Christmas, but they can’t take away what Christmas really means to those of us who truly believe. That is in our hearts.
In the meantime, we still have our Christmas trees, our nativity scenes, our carols, family gatherings, Christmas cards, egg nog and hauntingly beautiful renditions of “O Holy Night” sung on Christmas Eve from small rural churches to big city cathedrals.
And we will still have the magic of little children awaiting the arrival of Santa Claus. Yeah, I know there is nothing in the Bible about Santa Claus, but I suspect God will give us a pass on that one. Nothing wrong with having a little fun.
Even after all these years, I still remember how hard it was to sleep the night before Christmas and the relief I felt when I awoke on Christmas morning and saw that Santa had eaten the cookies I had left out for him and the shock and awe of what he had left me under the tree. We didn’t have a chimney in those days and I never quite figured out how he got in the house but I chose not to sweat the small stuff.
These days, I am witnessing Christmas as seen through the eyes of a 7-year-old great grandson, Cameron Charles Yarbrough, and the magic is still there. Cameron Charles does have a chimney, but whether Santa Claus avails himself of it matters not a whit just as long as Santa somehow manages to get in and properly recognizes the yearlong efforts of being a good little boy. Obviously, not sweating the small stuff is in the family genes.
It is just the first week of December but it is not too early for us to promise each other as we head for the stores and plan the parties and wrap the presents that we will not forget the true meaning of Christmas. Peace on Earth and Goodwill to all Men (and Women) has to start somewhere. Maybe it can start with us.