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What does Christmas really mean anyway?
by Judy Eichstedt
2007-12-04 09:44:41
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I have often wondered what the true meaning of Christmas is. I understand that to Christians all over the world it’s meaning is clear. It’s the birth of Christ. The meaning seems very simple and clear; we celebrate December twenty-fifth because a savior is born. We give gifts to one another because God gave us the gift of Jesus. However, over many years, this will be fifty-eight years of Christmas I must say I don’t see too much of Christ in this holiday. Yes I am a believer in God with a little doubt from time to time and yet one would really have to look hard and search long to find God in what we call Christmas.

When my children were young they sat up most of the night on Christmas Eve being far too excited to sleep. They talked among themselves in whispers, 'I hope I get a new bike,' one would say, another hoped for a doll, some skates and a Darth Vader doll. We're going back a few years here. Today’s children expect a computer or a highly-priced game system that clearly put parents' credit cards to the limit. The fault is clearly that of the parents who may have over the years forgotten that Christmas does have a meaning and it’s not about toys and games or a big screen TV. However one thing remains the same, our children do not wake up on Christmas morning screaming happy birthday Jesus.

A neighbor of mine, who I call the negative neighbor, had a lot to say about the meaning of Christmas. Well let me tell you what he said, 'Christmas is a greedy holiday when all people really think about is what they are going to be getting on Christmas morning. Department stores began stocking the shelves with Christmas stuff as early as they can in order to increase sales.' He went on to say it’s all about money and sales, sales and more sales. It’s a time when big business makes the most money. 'So, if you ask me, the meaning of Christmas is money,' he said with an odd laugh.

An elderly friend told me that Christmas is the best time of the whole year. She explained she waits for it with an eager excitement and a longing. Her face seemed to take on a glow as she spoke of the holiday. I asked her why Christmas was so special to her with great hope in my heart thinking she must really know the true meaning of this holiday only to be saddened by her reply. It’s the only time of the year that my grown children will come for a visit. I miss them so much she went on to say. I get so lonely when I don’t see them. So I concluded that her meaning of Christmas is tied to her desperation to see her children.

Talking to some friends who work in a factory hear in Tulsa I asked them what meaning dose Christmas hold for them. One said with a laugh, 'Are you kidding, after working fifty or sixty hours a week, Christmas gets me time away from work. It’s a holiday from backbreaking work,' he said. Many of the workers agreed with what he said. One of the office personnel that was stood nearby said, 'If you ask me, Christmas is a time when you sit down to the best meal of the whole year.' She went on to say that she has a budget to stay on and, with prices so high now, the only area she can cut is food. 'So you eat less and cheaply all year long to save money and then have a good meal on the holiday?' I asked. 'Well yes,' she replied. So for some people Christmas is a break from work and an opportunity to make up for the fact that they don’t eat well all year long so they can eat well for one day.

Being a homeless activist I take coffee and doughnuts downtown to the homeless on Sunday morning. On Thanksgiving I went to a place where the homeless sometimes sleep next to an underpass and found about five people there. I offered the food I had and a couple of coats to them. I was about to leave when one of the women spread out the blanket and put the food on it. I watched and the five people held hands and prayed. It may seem strange to some yet these homeless human beings were thankful for the food they received and that in spite of living on the street they thanked God they were healthy and they had good friends. I took a chance and asked them what the meaning of Christmas is.

The older one looked straight ahead, almost as if in a trance for a moment or two, and then spoke, 'I think the meaning is hope,' the rest agreed by nodding their head, 'Hope is what I wanted to know. Hope in God and that we're not all alone and lost in this big world.' 'If you are only hoping there is a God then you must not really believe God is real,' I said. The old man looked at me and said if we truly all believed in God would we be the people we are today. I did not know what to say. I knew in my heart what he said was truth for all of us and we would all be very different people if we all, without a doubt, believed in God. So for the homeless Christmas means hope.

I believe 'hope' is the best word to describe the meaning of Christmas. It's possible that parents go overboard with buying gifts for their kids in the hope that their children will realize their gifts have a meaning. As for people who have grown tired of the commercial side of Christmas there is still hope that we can make it better. After all, retailers can't make money if we don’t buy. The parents who sit and wait for their children to come and visit still hang on to hope that one day their children will come to see them just because they love them. Workers looking for rest hold on to the hope that someday they will be able to spend as much time at home as they do working. People sitting down to the best meal of the year hope that everyday at dinnertime will be the best meal of the year.

Christmas would seem to mean different things to different people. However, hope is the thread that ties us all together on Christmas. Perhaps Christmas is a never-ending story and every year another chapter is written by all of us. We can choose to remember the birth of Christ and celebrate that very special day. We can reach out to others and, by example, follow the teachings of Jesus by loving one another. We can remember the poor of our world and offer what help we can and maybe invite an elderly neighbor who is all alone to share Christmas with us. We can bring meaning to this holiday by being the people we should be and could be if we choose to be.

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Emanuel Paparella2007-12-04 10:55:31
Ignazio Silone, a communist and an atheist who returned to his traditional faith and wrote some wonderful books on Christian hope, like Chesterton and C.S. Lewis, coined the expression "conspiracy of hope." Maybe that is what Christmas is, as this fine article would suggest. The poet Wystan Hugh Auden used to say that we are so constituted spiritually that "we must love another or die," which comes to the same thing. A meaningful Christmas to all!

Jack2007-12-04 21:45:31
What a great ending to an awesome article my friend. Christmas is what you make it. If it is only what you must get for everyone and feel disapointment with what you have received for Christmas, the point is entirely missed.

The greatest gift we could ever give is to give of ourselfs to others, for this deep well never dries up...it's supply is endless and in fact, the more given, remarkably, the more that is replinished. People will always be more important than things. God bless you and Merry "Christ"-mas. I think you have just put Him back into in Judy.

Jack2007-12-04 21:47:47
Jesus famous words ring clear here. "It is more blessed to give than to receive".

We can always go out and buy new things...our beloved family, friends and neighbors, we can not.

Sand2007-12-09 12:32:19

The ball of Earth slowly rolls
From out the yellow light of summer
Down the curving slope of seasons
Guided on its rail of gravity
By purely trajectory reasons.

Tumbling to the pit called Winter,
Clouds transform to fogs of crystal grit
Which dust the brittle crust of frosted fields
With powdered water, while the streams and lakes
Retreat beneath their sheets of glassy shields.

Bereft of sun, of heat, of light,
The sky sends demon winds to vent its fury,
Knifing out with cold to howl and shake
And punish trees and frighten beasts
Who flinch and huddle in its icy wake.

So, the cyclic clock, the axis of the planet
Tips to distal point from the local star.
When men clasped hands to fend the long black fear,
The time the Christians stole to honor Christ,
The midnight of the year.

luzia2008-08-22 22:41:01
why cant we see juses.............

vicki2009-11-19 20:21:30
what a great article..and the poem below.. wholly night.. is just a knock my socks off beautiful piece of work..I wish I could read more work from this poet..anyone know who it is?
leave a comment please....

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