My "real" Christmas post, written 21 years ago.
By The Horse
Walnut Creek, California
December 25, 2021 12:46pm CST
I used to be a member of a site called Epinions. I think there are a handful of former Epinions writers on MyLot. Epinions was a "product review site," and it was also an active social community, like MyLot. Occasionally, on Epinions, we would have what were called "write-offs." A member would chose a topic, and writers on the site would make submissions. This was my submission in 2000, when I was a younger man than I am now. I notice that my personality and writing style have not changed much. I hope you enjoy this old piece. --- Write-Off: Macy's, Matthew, a Manger, and the Messiah. Is Christ With Us at Christmas? My thanks to Pam Robinxxx for inviting me to participate in this write-off about alternative ways of celebrating Christmas. The "Fatherhood" section seems like an obvious place to put this, given whose birthday we're celebrating, but I actually didn't think of it until I discovered that I already had a piece in "Family Values," where I had originally intended to post. I hope I'm not too earnest in this one. Bah. Is Christ With Us at Christmas? Christmas exists to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ. Some might argue that Jesus was a very bold Jewish kid who grew up to be a wonderful philosopher, and perhaps a prophet. Others would say that he is the Messiah. Regardless, the most basic lesson of the influential religion that bears his name is clear: He that loveth his brother abideth in the light And there is none occasion of stumbling in him. 1 John 2:10 Say what you will (if you so choose) about abuses of Christianity over the years, but that's a pretty nice message. And yet, somehow, even the most devout among us seem to forget this basic message, and we wind up trying to make up for lost ground around the Holiday Season, spreading what has come to be known as Holiday Cheer. Often we fail. We get together with our families (with whom we often wind up arguing). We purchase presents, presenting our credit cards to part-time sales clerks at Macy's (with whom we often wind up arguing). We make New Year's resolutions and vow to be better to others and to ourselves (with whom we often wind up arguing). Frustrated with our own inability to fully enjoy Christmas Spirit, we turn to the Children. We teach them about Santa Claus, a sort of Jesus For Kids who "knows if you've been good or bad" and will reward you with material possessions if you don't pout or cry. Maybe Santa (with all his presents) was meant as a metaphor for our Eternal Reward for following God's Commandments (1 John 2:2), but sometimes the story of Santa Claus seems to teach as much about getting material things if you kiss up to authority figures as it does about love and the true Christmas Spirit. Humbug. So where is the True Joy of Christmas to be found? I have found three ways of celebrating Christmas that have proven to be very satisfying to me (and those who participate with me). All can be done by yourself or in the company of others (adults or kids), and all tend to steer me away from Christmas materialism and bothersome crowds, and toward something a bit more spiritual. 1. Do something with the poor. The Bible can be a bit ambiguous, if not downright confusing. In some places it seems to contradict itself. But it is quite unambiguous in conveying Jesus's feelings toward the poor, and what he would ask us to do for the poor: For I was an hungered and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty and ye gave me drink. Lord, when saw we thee hungered, and fed thee? Or thirsty, and gave thee drink? Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me. Matthew 25:35-40 In every city, there are Rescue Missions and other shelters in need of volunteers to help feed the poor. Big meals are generally served around Thanksgiving and Christmas. If you don't live near a city, there are probably old folks' homes in need of volunteers in your community. One Thanksgiving, some friends and I drove from a small town in Iowa to Des Moines, where we helped serve meals in a Homeless Shelter (yes, there are homeless people in Des Moines, Iowa). It was one of the most enjoyable Thanksgivings I ever experienced. If the Bible is right, then in helping the poor on Christmas, we are actually spending our Holidays with the very person whose birthday we are supposed to be celebrating. A birthday party is best when the guest of honor is present. 2. Take in some sacred music. I’m a bit of a traditionalist when it comes to sacred music. Every year, I take in at least one performance of Handel’s Messiah. Sometimes I take in more than one performance, one by the San Francisco Symphony and Chorus, and another by one of our smaller Baroque ensembles on period instruments. The Messiah tells the story of the birth, crucifixion, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Because it is sung in English, a Messiah performance makes it difficult (for speakers of English) NOT to feel the emotion associated with Jesus’s suffering, the joy of his resurrection, and the promise of a better place. The pathos of this story is moving even to those who do not consider themselves to be religious. Interestingly, much of the text for the Messiah comes from the Old Testament, especially Isaiah. I enjoy it when I find parallels between the Old Testament and the New, and I admit that I’d do less Bible reading were I not drawn into it by listening to sacred music. Although not directly from the Messiah, this passage is from Isaiah: Is it not to deal thy bread to the hungry…when thou seest the naked, that thou cover him… Then shall thy light break forth as the morning…and the glory of the Lord shall be thy reward. Isaiah 58:7-8 The parallels between this passage and the above passage from Matthew 25 are striking, and lead me to think about the love and compassion that guide all true religions. Thinking about such things draws me closer to the meaning of Christmas than does shopping at Macy’s. It’s also fun (when attending Messiah) to dress up and be out on the town but away from the stores. Musically, the Messiah is one beautiful piece of music. The Hallelujah Chorus we’ve all heard too many times is not the prettiest part in the piece; my favorite is the final “Worthy is the lamb that was slain/Amen” Chorus. The Amen itself runs for several minutes and (unless you can’t stand classical music) will leave you glowing with the true spirit of Christmas. 3. Find your own personal nativity scene. I gather that there are conflicting accounts of where Jesus was actually born, but the most poetic account has him born in a manger. A manger is “a trough or open box for livestock feed or fodder” (Merriam-Webster Dictionary). You will find nativity scenes in the display windows of most of your local department stores, but it could be argued that the intent of those who put up those scenes is more to draw you to their display windows than to celebrate the birth of the Messiah. To me, the manger account of Jesus’s birth is a lovely symbol of his solidarity with the weak and the poor, and perhaps of the fragile nature of the Agape love that he represents. Probably the most unusual aspect of my celebration of Christmas involves visiting my horse at night, bringing her into the barn, and letting her eat while I walk slowly up and down the aisle and chat quietly with the other horses. I try to visualize a young mother and a helpless child in one of the mangers, and I marvel at the peace and tranquility that exists there. Walking outside, I look at the stars, and think how little they have changed over the past 2,000 years. Much on this earth is very different from when Jesus Christ was born, but not the stars. In fact, the relative position of the stars is as eternal as anything I can think of EXCEPT the Kingdom of the one whose birthday we are celebrating on Christmas. The words “forever, and ever, and ever,” from the final Chorus of Handel’s Messiah, are playing in my head as I write. Serious stuff. If you don’t have access to a real manger, I’d suggest getting as far away from the crowds as you can, and contemplate the humble rural surroundings into which Jesus was said to have been born, as well as the stars that guided the three noble-men to his side. I think the kids especially could benefit from such a little trip. Well, there you have it! Of course, I do all the normal Christmas stuff as well. Decorating a Christmas tree is fun, being with family is wonderful (when they’re not arguing; see above), and eating large quantities of food is indispensable. I also really enjoy seeing the anticipation of the kids’ faces on Christmas eve, and the frustration on the parents’ faces when their toddlers are less interested in the present on which they spent $200 than the box in which it came (boxes make great forts, hats, telescopes, etc.). I hope your Holidays are joyous, and that you are able to find your own ways (or share in mine) of tapping into the wonderful feeling of what Christmas is really supposed to be all about.
11 people like this
Poor is a relative term. Poor and deserving is more appropriate. Loving everybody - I am not sure that is feasible for everybody. Environment affects us ..leaves us with prejudices. So it sounds good to read, but when it comes to implementing, I definitely fall short. I gave a cake and some chicken to my house help. Why I help her? The family situation makes them just a tad above the folks who are on streets. Precarious. If I can prevent her falling in the lower category...I would be happy. I dread the thought of her going through dustbins. I saw a guy doing that long ago, and was extremely unhappy. Uneducated old, with no savings worth mention, not much protection from the state, only a grand daughter to depend upon who cannot in reality spare for her because she has a daughter to educate and provide for apart from taking care of herself. I think .. I can relate to this situation. I cannot relate to love all situation like nuns.
• United States
there are always great question s- you've asked several here. But I do like the initial thought, is Christ with us this time of year. i remember asking a minister once, who asked the same question "would Christ want to be with us now?