Friday, December 20, 2013

'Tis Better to Receive

We've got it all wrong.

To cut to the chase, yes, Christmas is about the celebration of Jesus' birth. I know, I know. No one wants to talk about that - it's on the hush-hush, the down low, on a need to know basis. Well, you all need to act like you know.

I get it - Americans will celebrate any foreign holiday that comes down the pike if that gives us an excuse to drink beer in the daytime: St. Patrick's Day, Cinco de Mayo, Bastille Day, The World Cup... We like to celebrate, and we are a melting pot nation, which means that our culture involves any holiday we want and see fit to take time out of our busy lives to proclaim our own. Christmas probably used to be a Christian holiday. Now it's for everyone - even the non-religious - and we are by nature inclusive, so fine; everyone can be in on the fun. Perhaps at some point, our forefathers thought inclusion equaled an open door policy that might steer some non-believers to "salvation" and then maybe we all just got lazy and decided to cave and make the commemoration of the birth of Jesus of Nazareth some religiously sterilized event that joined the rank of the Easter Bunny as a night when a jolly old fat man brings presents to kids all over the world in a single night. At least in theory, Santa seemed to use to discriminate among the naughty and nice children, as to whom would receive presents, but I bet even that farce has ceased to carry any weight among the gift expecting youth of today and even yesteryear. Now we have tramplings and stabbings every "Black Friday" as the commercial equivalent to the beginning of advent ensues, and this has somehow become the norm for the most wonderful time of the year. Meanwhile, the storyline has been established that "Xmas" is a time for giving.

NO, IT'S NOT! If we can, let's rewind a couple of millenia before all of the propaganda and look at this day honestly. Christmas - the day of Christ's birth - is a gift from God to all of us. Yes, Baby Jesus did receive gifts from certain travelers, yet the message was - whether you believe he was/is the son of God or not - that Jesus was a gift to the world that day. As Christians, the profound message of Christmas is that God sent His Son to Earth to teach us the way to live and then die to prepare us a way to eternal life. Because of this belief, we believe that Christmas is the day we celebrate receiving the gifts of peace, life, joy, and love. Scripture does require that we give many things throughout our lifetimes, however the story of the first Christmas makes no reference to us writing down lists of things that we want so that we may (earmuffs, kids) mail them off to a fictional character at the North Pole, nor spend all free time stressing to buy everyone you might see on Jesus' birthday a gift that proportionally equates to the one you expect from them. Christmas, quite simply, has been taken over by a great many who have no desire at all to celebrate the gift of Jesus. Everywhere you look, Christmas is proclaimed as a time for giving, yet nobody wants to tell you why, other than it is how we should behave everyday.

No one in the history of the world has been so ceremoniously and willfully ignored on their birthday as Jesus of Nazareth. If you don't believe He is the Son of God...fine, don't believe it; we still welcome you to celebrate the principles He came to proclaim. However, ignoring Jesus as THE GIFT of Christmas is a travesty that has gone on way too long and become way too popular. Just as we should remember any great man or woman on their designated day and try to honor the difference they made in the world by introspectively seeking how we might continue their legacy in our own lives, we should do likewise to honor this man who was a teacher, a healer, a friend, a son, a martyr, and a leader. Christian or not, if we are to celebrate December 25th, we must make it a day of the memory of the man. Do whatever else you will, but the real gift is what has already been given to us. Receiving sounds selfish, but in all reality, it is the difficult task of opening our hearts to change, forgiveness, contrition, sorrow, grief, enlightenment, and love. If we can focus on receiving these things, rather than giving toys and scarves out of expectation, we will have found the true reason for the season.

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