WELL, HERE WE ARE, it’s Christmas Eve.
Tomorrow (Friday, Christmas Day) will mark the end of a frenzied and hurried period of 31 days that has seen people get up at 3 a.m. and stand in the cold waiting to get into a store; others rush around trying to get their normal work done while trying to mail Christmas cards and bake Christmas goodies and attend Christmas parties.
We spend more than we need to on things that others really don’t need or want – but we have to get them something, it’s Christmas, after all.
For me, the time leading up to Christmas Day is also filled with a series of events that help ground me about the holiday.
My month starts off with a trip to Madison State Hospital early in December, where I am part of a group of folks from area churches who hold a Christmas party for a group of residents there.
I’ve been a part of the party for decades, and I go every year because there is something that sparks the true spirit of Christmas inside of you when you see a group of people who are genuinely filled with Christmas spirit themselves.
When you see a person open a present containing three pairs of socks, and they begin to cry because they really, really needed some socks, it sort of puts that new cell phone into perspective.
You think you’d go crazy if your favorite movie star or professional athlete walked into a room you were in? That’s nothing compared to the rock star status Santa gets when he enters our party.
He walks in and they stand and cheer and rush to shake his hand; and then they very patiently wait their turn to tell him what they want for Christmas. They never think to ask for something for themselves. They never think about being selfish; they never think about what they don’t have and how their life might be better if they had it.
They fall in love with new shampoo and a soft blanket and a new hat and gloves. They hug you and thank you over and over again, but it’s you who leaves that party with something special in your heart.
The rest of the month is filled with the joy I get watching so many members of our community – our Switzerland County ‘family – take the time to help others in need. We live in a society today where most people are so busy looking out for themselves that they never really stop to see the situations of others.
In our neighborhoods, front porches have been replaced by back decks; the kids don’t go outside and play anymore; and most people barely know their neighbors. We have closed ourselves in and closed ourselves off; but for the people who volunteer for the Angel Tree Program; for those members of the American Legion and our county volunteer fire departments who hand out food baskets; and the scores of other individuals and organizations that go out of their way to not only see a need, but help meet that need.
I’ve said it over and over again, but there is not a more special place to live than right here in Switzerland County. My family and I have made our home here for more than 30 years, and although we’ve had the chance to leave for other opportunities in the past, we’ve always stayed here – because this is our home and all of you are part of our family.
I will close this Christmas column like I have closed my Christmas column in the past, because, above all else, there is something that we all need to remember this Christmas season.
It has become somewhat of a tradition with me.
As I wrote earlier in this column, for the past few weeks we’ve all been running around and keeping a frantic pace in our efforts to find just the right present for each and every person on our list. We go into stores and our met with “Happy Holidays”, so we don’t offend other shoppers; and, the truth be told – there’s not much ‘happy’ to them at that point.
But on a personal level I always try and take time each day to stop, pause, and remember why we celebrate December 25th. As I always say, for those who may not consider themselves to be “religious” people, it is not my intention to “preach” at you; but rather to simply share the true account of the Christmas holiday.
It comes from a man named Luke, who was a physician, so he was rather meticulous with writing down each specific and important detail.
In the second chapter of his Gospel, Luke shares with each of us the true “Reason for the Season”:
In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) And everyone went to his own town to register.
So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.
And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”
Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,
“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.”
When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”
So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.
Merry Christmas to each and every one of you, and may the true joy of this season remain with you throughout the year.