What a wonderful, magical time it is for children and how they look forward to a visit from that jolly old bearded gentleman, bearing gifts of all dimensions. For many adults, too, Christmas is a time for much celebration, family home-comings and for renewing old acquaintances and re-living fond memories.
So what is Christmas all about, and how did it originate?
Christmas is a special time in the Christian calendar when some three billion Christians throughout the world celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ, who came upon the earth over 2,000 years ago as our Saviour to open the gates of Heaven to all mankind. That is what Christians believe and honour. It is a time for Christians everywhere to spread the message of peace, joy and goodwill to all peoples, irrespective of colour, race or religion.
Sadly, it is not a ‘perfect world’ and with our politically correct world, the message of Christmas is being watered down more and more as the world becomes more secular, and as a result, Jesus is becoming less known and relevant. This reminds me of a little story I heard recently. I quote ‘A woman visited a jewellery shop to purchase a gold cross. The shop assistant asked politely “Would you like a plain cross, or one with a little man on it?”’ I believe that summarises what I have been trying to emphasise.
The legend of how Santa Claus came into being is quite interesting. In the 4th century AD, Bishop Nicholas of Smyrna (now Turkey) was quite wealthy and generous. He often gave joy to poor children by throwing gifts in through their windows. Later, the Catholic Church raised him to Sainthood. St. Nicholas was ordained Patron Saint of Children and Seafarers.
The Orthodox Church later raised St. Nicholas, miracle worker, to great esteem. It was in his honour that Russia’s oldest church was built. The American version of the Santa Clause figure received its inspiration and its name from the Dutch legend of Sinter Klaas, brought by settlers to New York in the 17th century.
In Central and Northern Germany, St. Nicholas later became known as der Weinachtmann. In England, he came to be called Father Christmas. In the United States of America, he began to be referred to as Santa Claus. In North American poetry and illustrations, Santa Claus was depicted with his white beard, red jacket and pom-pom topped cap. To complete the picture, he would magically set forth, on the night before Christmas in his sleigh, pulled by eight reindeer, and climb down chimneys to leave his gifts in stockings that children hung on the mantelpiece above the fireplace. To satisfy the curiosity of children as to where Santa lived, his home and workshop at the North Pole became part of the magic.
Whilst Christmas is a special time for children, it still holds the ‘magic’ for many adults. Christmas means different things to different people who have different values and priorities. We all love the glitter, the tinsel, the decorations, the Christmas tree, the coloured lights and the Christmas cards. One has to admire the effort that some people put into decorating and displaying their homes so beautifully to bring joy and happiness to so many in our towns and cities.
What would Christmas be without music? So much merriment is expressed through music and song. There is always so much joy and happiness experienced along with the Christmas carols. One can literally feel the love and goodwill, as people of all ages sing in unison, the wonderful old favourites with which we have all grown up. What fantastic Christmas carols we are able to enjoy through the wonders of technology and the magic of television.
It is gratifying that churches throughout this world still fill up for Christmas services. I believe that there is a void in most Christians’ hearts that is partially filled, as they worship at this special time of the year.
Christmas provides a wonderful opportunity for families to come together. It is a joy to witness many families, sometimes travelling great distances, to ‘come home’ for Christmas celebrations. Many attend church services as a family unit, singing along with the Church choirs who have prepared special hymns for the occasion.
Christmas can bring out the very best in people who delight in spreading peace and goodwill to all people. Sadly though, Christmas for some, can be the loneliest time of the year; people whose families have all moved away, those people who through circumstances, have few true friends, or maybe people who have travelled from distant lands and don’t know anyone, feel special pangs of loneliness as they wander aimlessly along deserted streets, especially in the bigger cities. These are the people to whom we should offer a hand of friendship, or at least a friendly “hello” or a welcoming smile. One can never know how a friendly gesture could change a person’s life or circumstance.
A heavy heart laden with grief from the loss of a dear one who has passed away during the year feels a special sense of loneliness at this time. Even if they are surrounded by family and friends, the grieving is deep and personal.
We should never forget our service men and women who are in combat in far off lands. They miss their families and loved ones so very much at this time of the year. Thanks to technology, some can at least talk to loved ones and view each family member through video link up. This surely must overcome some of the loneliness they would be feeling.
Unfortunately, not everything about Christmas is wholesome and beautiful. There is a violent side to the festivities, which just shouldn’t be. Statistics show that maybe thirty people will die on our roads over the Christmas holidays, and many more will be injured. The main causes will be attributed to excessive speed, alcohol, drugs, fatigue and road rage. Wouldn’t it be a wonderful world if we could all live in harmony with each other. Domestic violence is getting out of hand. Some people hold so much anger in their hearts. How many family BBQ’s will erupt and end in violent confrontations, some fatally? One only has to watch many of the Current Affairs programs to witness so much anger between neighbours over simple domestic problems which could and should be settled over a cool drink.
If more courtesy was shown on our roads over the holiday period, many of our fatal accidents could at least be less serious or eliminated. We are ever grateful to and sincerely thank our wonderfully dedicated doctors, nurses, ambulance paramedics, police, firemen and SES volunteers who give up their Christmas with family to be on call to attend accidents, many of which could be avoided if people obeyed road rules, kept their anger under control, and abstained from drinking whilst driving.
We wish everyone a very Merry Christmas and a happy and peaceful festive season, and please Drive Safely!
About the Author: John is a member of the OLR community. Many will know him from his involvement with the OLR Men’s Choir which he started with Evie and Carol 4 years ago. John originally wrote this article for The Bribie Islander newspaper (http://thebribieislander.com.au Issue #5, December 2014, P7)