The Christmas story is a triumphant one which centers on poverty. The parents of Jesus were so poor they stayed in a lowly barn surrounded by barn animals giving off the only heat in the place via their breath. The shepherd, guarding his flock by night, was poor money-wise but enriched by the sight of the newborn King. The Magi, the Three Kings, arrived from afar to pay tribute to a "King" who would ultimately be scourged and crucified as the "King of the Jews." Don't forget that Jesus was Jewish!
Today, we often overlook the roots of Christmas a day celebrated since the 4th century on December 25 when the then Pope set that date to compete with the Winter Solstice activities of the pagans. In those dark days of the year, we long to see light and color.
What does Christmas mean to you? To some it is office parties, or getting drunk, or shopping to excess with credit cards. To others, like me, it is a time of solemn reflection of the year just past and a questioning of just how "good" I have been throughout the past year. To some it is all about getting gifts and for others, giving them. We often weigh and ponder for months beforehand just what items would bring pleasure to our friends and relatives and then set to work either making those gifts or making phone calls to vendors.
I like the pause, the break in the hustle and bustle, as we ponder the Christ child in the manger. Ultimately, the holiday is about him, not about our own greed or preoccupation with material goods. There will be time in the ensuing days after Christmas to try to return clothes that were not the right size, candles that were not quite the right color, or duplicate items that we really wanted so badly, we may have told more than one person.
In the midst of all of the commercialism, the new electronic "toys" etc., I hope that you will take the time to think of the words of "Oh, Little Town of Bethlehem," a peaceful and peace-giving song for the ages. It is fun to give presents, a tradition of Christmas started by the Magi, after all. But there is more to celebrating the holiday than eating rum cake and drinking egg nog.
I wish you a very rich Christmas steeped in the traditions of your own family. While listening to "Holly Jolly Christmas" please take a moment to realize once again that Jesus is at the center of the celebration and a message of peace. The jolly old man has to take a back seat. In fact, the Santa tradition, the Christmas tree, and many of the ways we celebrate the holiday stem from practices started in the 19th century.
However you enjoy the holiday, we hope that this Christmas day is the happiest ever for you no matter where you are or how much or how little you may have materially. Joy and peace are the gifts of the season and the message of Christianity: that a savior was born into the world to save all sinners and bring eternal life. No greater gift could be given by anyone.
Best wishes to my Jewish friends in their celebration of Chanukah - the Festival of Lights, and to all other people in the world who observe holy days during this time of the year.