Meaning of Christmas Transcends Religion
- 22 December 2006 by Author 0 Comments
Meaning of Christmas Transcends Religion
By Richard Larsen
Published – Idaho State Journal, 12/22/06
Whether you celebrate Christmas, Hanukkuh, Kwanzaa, Zagmuk, Saturnalia, Mithras’ birthday, or just the winter solstice, the spirit of Christmas is universal for it can permeate the very soul of every man, woman, and child.
For those of us who are Christian, the concept of a loving father granting mortality to His only begotten son in order to bring salvation to mankind is an appealing and powerful concept. But the underlying principle behind not only Jesus’ birth, but His life and His death, is love.
Certainly there is an increase in sensitivity to others this time of year in spite of the often hectic schedules we maintain as we shop for just the right gift for each of our loved ones. But the foundational motivation for finding that gift is love, and a desire to please. That principle of love can and should be shared by all people, not just this time of year, but throughout the year. If there were a way of packaging this spirit of love and sharing that as our gift to everyone, think how much better the world would be. We could conduct mass shipments of it to the Middle East and to America-haters and “infidel-haters” all over the world, and even in our own midst, and most of the problems of the world would be solved.
Perhaps I’m idyllic, but I think there is nothing that we do on a day to day basis that matters in the long-term more than how we treat one another and how we love one another. The spirit of Christmas is truly one of benevolence, charity, and kindness.
Many have a problem with the level of commercialization of Christmas. As a true disciple of the free enterprise economic system, I have little problem with the commercial activity surrounding this time of year. For many retailers, the time they move into the “black” on their bottom line is not until the Christmas shoppers start hitting the malls and shops on the Friday after Thanksgiving, hence the term “Black Friday.” Obviously a boon to retailing, Christmas brings a pecuniary blessing to them.
The commercialization of Christmas is only a problem to those who allow it to become the focus of the season. Of greater concern should be the materialism that can be fostered by such commercialization, for materialism is an internalized characteristic whereas the commercialism of the season is extrinsic. We should be no more bothered by the Christmas shopping ads than we are by a “White Sale” on President’s Day.
In 1843, Charles Dickens penned the now immortal “A Christmas Carol,” that played a significant role in making of our Christmas observance the overt celebration that it is today. But it was also instrumental in transforming a holiday from one disavowed by many Christian sects because of it’s communal hedonistic excess to one of personal goodwill and compassion. If one man can, through his creativity and power of communication, do so much to transform Western holiday observance, how can we deny the potential of each of us, within our spheres of influence, to create such a transformation of our Christmas observance? As Dickens said of his masterpiece, “May it haunt [your] houses pleasantly…” Perhaps we all need to be haunted so, until we make of Christmas all that the spirit thereof demands.
Surely we can each be “Dickens” in our homes, neighborhoods, and communities, by redoubling our focus on the love which is at the heart of our observance. Surely we can, through our individual acts of kindness, and increase in sensitivity, mollify the malcontents, touch the lives of those who may think they are forgotten or unappreciated in our society, and somehow ameliorate the temporal standards of those who may have less then we.
Said Dickens of Ebenezer Scrooge, “…he knew how to keep Christmas well, if any man alive possessed the knowledge. May that be truly said of us, and all of us.” A fitting end for his book, and a noble goal for each of us.
Regardless of your theological beliefs, may you find joy in giving, peace in service, and heart-felt comfort in reaching out to the lonely and the needy. Even the secularists amongst us would be hard pressed to criticize our observance of Christmas if it transcended theology and translated to such humanistic altruism, which is what He whose birthday we celebrate would desire of us. To each of you, Merry Christmas, in the full, inclusive context of the love upon which it is based.
Richard Larsen is President of Larsen Financial, a brokerage and financial planning firm in Pocatello, and is a graduate of Idaho State University with a BA in Political Science and History and former member of the Idaho State Journal Editorial Board. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.