Saturday, December 25, 2010

What is Christmas?

Our family celebrates Christmas on Christmas Eve, with a dinner, opening gifts and playing a game of cards. If the time works out we may attend a midnight Mass or service, but after a day of preparation and perhaps work, staying up so late may not work. All in all our tradition is pretty…well, traditional.

And speaking of tradition, one that has crept in and now seems to dominate our western culture is the commercialism that encourages us to buy, buy and buy more. Perhaps the most opulent example (and in my opinion the most offensive) is the commercial of the luxury car tied up with a red bow in the driveway, with the person standing beside it squealing with unrestrained joy. Spare me!

This morning’s Oregonian featured an article about how some spend their Christmases in less traditional manners, perhaps due to circumstances in their lives. We cannot forget how this recession has adversely affected the lives of many families and individuals, who have seen successful businesses slip away, homes fall into foreclosure and families separated. It may not even be the economy. One’s circumstances can also be due to choices one has made in one’s life. One’s choice of how to spend Christmas may also be a reflection of how one’s own life has been changed. Here is a link to that article:

I want to introduce you to a friend of mine. Her name is Kristin, and she is pictured with her dog Boo. Cute, huh? This was taken at our annual 4th of July party.

Of late she has been spending time volunteering in a homeless shelter in SE Portland, serving food to those less fortunate, and Christmas Eve day was no different for her. I have known Kristin through some hard times. I won’t go into her story, other than to say it is a remarkable one and to see her in this place is truly a blessing. Her Christmas present to me was a very simple one, a framed photo of Boo (and one I did not take!). What was and is important to her now is to share of herself with people most of us never encounter.

It was the simplicity of the gift, and the choice of her actions that moved me, and caused me to reflect on what Christmas really is. It is so very easy to get caught up in the frenzy of the holidays and to stress about finding the "perfect gift" for those in our circle of family and friends. Yet the best part is spending time with those who are around us. It isn’t about buying things and doing our part in keeping the economy going…no, it’s about sharing ourselves and especially with those less fortunate than us.

This, my friends, is Christmas and brings us closer to the manger scene…where a couple were forced to resort to sleeping in a stable rather than a warm room and bed. May we all enjoy the true peace and joy that comes with the simplicity of the season.

Merry Christmas to all!

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