In The Westchester Guardian, December 20, 2012 issue
The rush to buy gifts this year was shocking. Stores opened their doors on the evening of the Thanksgiving's day celebration, a traditional day for families to gather and celebrate. But has the commercialization of this joyous religious celebration of Christmas eroded the true meaning of this holy day? The greatest gift to Christians everywhere at Christmas is to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ who came to save the world.
Born of a woman this God-made-man showed how God's kingdom is among us. Christ was born to a humble family. He brought no wealth to the world, and lived a simple life. When questioned about his Kingdom he would reply his Kingdom is not "of this world." This should reminds us that the tradition of giving gifts should not overshadow that Jesus wanted us all to share our material and spiritual gifts with those in need.
Ancient people searched for a God. When Jesus finally arrived he was accepted by many as the true God, Words had previously been used to express people's faith. After Jesus was born scripture stated, "And the word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.' This tells us that living in the "now" is important and that we should move forward positively. Salvation thus is present for us every day.
This year, for example, some homes were devastated by a hurricane storm (Sandy). Many people in the Westchester area lost power for days. Physical damage to homes, businesses and vehicles also occurred. While the government has promised to help, the immediate needs of many had to be addressed. In the true spirit of giving many churches, businesses and private organizations responded to these people in need. The spirit of Christmas and Christ can be seen in the generosity of our community and nation here and elsewhere despite the present dismal economic climate. The less fortunate have not been forgotten.
The great tradition of Christmas as a religious celebration has been marred recently by those who would destroy its true meaning. Some schools have reportedly refused to let children sing Christmas songs. There are attacks on the symbols of Christmas such as calling Christmas shopping, holiday shopping. A particularly irreverent attack on the holiday is the attack on Christmas trees. Christmas trees were originally rejected by the early Christian church. Early Christians followed the pagan practice of placing wreaths and lamps in their homes. In those days trees were cut down from the forest because they were viewed favorably for warding off evil spirits. Trying to show that this pagan practice was giving way to Christianity, in the eighth century St. Boniface reportedly cut down an oak tree and split it into four pieces so that an evergreen could be seen from the trunk. Christmas trees were introduced in 1982 in the Vatican by Pope John Paul II. Not without controversy, in Boston an attempt in 2005 was made to call their Christmas tree a holiday tree. Lawsuits reversed this change.
No matter what symbols are used, Christmas is still a day for rejoicing. In Luke's gospel we hear the "good news of great joy that is for all people." Calvin Coolidge said Christmas is a "state of mind," and goodwill, "to be plenteous in mercy, is to have the real spirit of Christmas." Let us all maintain this spirit throughout the whole coming year.