Wednesday, December 24, 2008

The True Meaning of Christmas

My wife, and two of my daughters, are at choir practice. Our two other kids are with me, here at home, but they're occupied with their own interests. That leaves me with time to think: something which is not always safe, from some points of view.

Like most Americans, I watch quite a bit of television. Especially, or even, around Christmas. Which means that, several times each year, I hear this phrase:

"The true meaning of Christmas is...." The rest of the sentence is generally something like 'getting together with family,' 'appreciating the ones you love,' 'in your heart,' or something else warm and fuzzy.

Sometimes it's "The real meaning of Christmas..." but the rest's the same.

I've got nothing about feeling the warm fuzzies. I'm a warm, fuzzy kind of guy. Sometimes. My wife sometimes says I'm like a grizzly with a hangover, too, but that's a whole different topic.

Where was I? Oh, right: "The True Meaning of Christmas." The way actors often say it, you can hear the capital letters.

Christmas, in America at least, is a great time for getting together with the rest of the family. Many people have several days off from work and seasonal industries generally don't have much going on, and New Year's is close enough to let people merge the two holidays with personal vacation time for extended trips.

I missed this year's get-together, where my wife's brothers and sisters, their children, their children's spouses, and the generation after that, gather. It's not the big family reunion, which requires the rental of a park in a nearby town, but it's still fun.

I'm getting off-topic again.

I started getting annoyed with "The True Meaning of Christmas" somewhere in my teens. Not because I had a beef with the crass commercialism of the pre-Christmas shopping season: That's actually rather fun.

It was because I found thoughts like 'the true meaning of Christmas is being with friends' dripping through my mind like syrup through oatmeal.

And, much as I enjoyed - and enjoy - the jingle of sleigh bells and cash registers, I was very well aware that "ever o'er its Babel sounds The blessed angels sing." All that glitz and kitsch is, at most, the wrapping and bow. It's not the present.

If all the lights, garlands, gift buying, traffic jams, jangling bells, ho-ho-hoing Santas, weird advertisements, and holiday specials seem hollow, there's a reason. In way too many places, all that hoopla is like a huge, ornate, glittering frame around a blank spot on the wall.

You probably know this already, but I'll say it anyway: Christmas is the holiday when Christians celebrate the birth of Jesus of Nazareth, the Christ, often called Jesus Christ. We think it's a rather big deal, because He's the son of God, savior of humanity, and all in all a rather important person. Sort of like a king, the way a president is sort of like a shop foreman.

That's the true meaning of Christmas.

And it's not "...peace on earth" - it's "...peace on earth on those on whom his favor rests." (Luke 2:14) That's a whole new can of worms, though: and my wife's back with the four kids, #2 daughter's boyfriend is making pizza in the kitchen, and it'll be time to eat soon.

Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, or whatever, and may the peace of God be with you.


Brigid said...

I think I was a little younger when I started getting sick of the usual Christmas TV Special message. Though in that case it was mainly because the villain of the piece universally had such an easy change of heart at the end. Then cue speech on the power of friendship. Gag.

Brian, aka Nanoc, aka Norski said...


I still enjoy the tale of the Grinch, but yes - I know what you mean.

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