Christmas is all about believing

Christmas is all about believing.

Christians believe in the day’s religious significance as a celebration of the birth of the Christ Child.

Young children, and more than a few older ones, hold on to their belief that Santa Claus will deposit presents under the tree while they sleep.

Christmas is the climax of a season in which miracles become manifest, sometimes with small gestures that loom large in the lives of those they touch.

A family with gifts on layaway at a discount store – ones they can barely afford – finds that a well-off stranger has paid their bill in full.

Generous donors fill food bank pantries so that individuals who might otherwise go hungry can enjoy a feast of turkey, ham, pies and other traditional treats. They give to toy drives so that all children have gifts to open on Christmas morning.

Secret Santas pick out just the right gift to show a colleague or acquaintance that they are not invisible and that they matter.

It’s finally here. Is there a more anticipated day anywhere on the calendar than Christmas morning?

For children, the longing that has been building for weeks is finally over. For adults, a shopping season that began before the Thanksgiving leftovers were cleared from the table has come to an end.

But for all of this, Christmas is a religious celebration. It is the day Christians throughout the world celebrate the birth of Jesus. Churches in our community have been holding special services leading up to this day, and many welcomed the holiday with early morning services this morning.

Christmas is one of two Christian holidays that are universally celebrated, this one for the virgin birth of Jesus in the manger, the other for his crucifixion and resurrection. Of the two, Christmas has become far more broad-based. Non-believers may take their kids to an Easter egg hunt, but otherwise don’t give much thought to Easter.

Christmas is different. It has become a wintertime celebration for the entire nation. Whatever your religious beliefs may be, it is impossible to turn on the TV, walk into a store or even drive down the street without being reminded that, “tis the season.” Many decide to join in the fun, without sharing in the reverence that the day was meant to bring.

Religious leaders are rightfully concerned that the solemn meaning of the day will get lost amidst the holiday rush and rampant consumerism. The tension between the holy and secular aspects of Christmas is nothing new. It has long been a struggle for the clergy to divert attention from the lure of a magical Santa who slides down the chimney to leave gifts under the tree.

In recent years, America has seen a growing diversity in faith beliefs, as well as those who choose not to follow any organized religion. For some, this has further eroded the true meaning of Christmas. But in a nation as large and diverse as ours, and a national holiday as ubiquitous as Christmas, it is inevitable that not all will see the meaning in the same way.

It is important that the true meaning of Christmas always remain in the hearts of believers. Sharing the celebration with others should in no way lessen the importance of the day.

The message of Christmas is one of joy and hope that all can understand and appreciate.

For many, Christmas is a time of family traditions. Families develop their own unique routines that, over the years, evolve into cherished traditions. We tell and retell the same old stories that only get better with time.

Some families have plenty. Their trees are always weighted down with colorfully wrapped packages beneath. Others have less, but still find a way – sometimes through the generosity of strangers – to make the day special. But even those with little create their own cherished traditions.

Whatever your traditions and however you are celebrating, we wish you all a Merry Christmas.

Whether you cling to traditions or roll with the times, whether you celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah, Chrismukkah, Kwanzaa, the Roman Saturnalia or the Seinfeldian Festivus, there is a place at the holiday table for everyone.

Merry Christmas. Feliz Navidad. Joyeux Noël. Buon Natale. Frohe Weihnachten. Mele Kalikimaka. God Jul.

No matter how you say it, we wish everyone a happy day full of love, kindness and generosity.

In times where our nation, and families, appearing to be pulling apart over matters of politics or culture, today is for setting it all aside. Take in a yuletide reflection to offer thanks and giving.

The Christmas story is a promise of peace on earth and goodwill toward men. It was sung by angels in a field to scared shepherds and relayed to magi through a star.

It has been embraced in the Christian world and beyond. It resonates as hope that we can all be better.

We never tire of saying Merry Christmas as a way to spread this message. We wish everyone a happy holiday filled with faith, family and friends.

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