What are we searching for?
"Mom always told us we should celebrate the spirit of Christmas every day of the year, not just on Christmas Day," the man said. The conversation turned to religion when I asked the young waiter at a local restaurant whether he had put a Christmas tree up and whether he was through shopping. This was when he told me that, within his religion, people did not believe in observing Christmas the way most do.
"We give presents to children when they are small," he said, "but when we become adults, we no longer look at Christmas in that light. We believe in Jesus and God, but we believe we should be thankful every day we are alive and continually be good to others. We should keep on doing the things that Christmas teaches people, all year long."
His beliefs did not follow the modern custom of buying lots of presents and celebrating the way many others do.
I thought about what the waiter had said. People need to be the same all year and show their love and care on a daily basis.
Christians observe Christmas because Jesus was born and came to save human kind. So often we fail to remember why we buy the gifts and hold the family gatherings.
The parties are fun, the food is good and decorations are elaborate, but it sometimes seems like a large party rather than worshipping God and thanking the Holy One for his gift of Jesus.
Even adults often can scarcely wait to see what they will receive on the holiday of Christmas. Time seems too short to observe the birth of Christ. You feel you must have everything perfect for the big day. You miss the Christmas programs and church services because you're too preoccupied with chores like cooking, buying and wrapping presents and entertaining.
"Is this what Jesus wants?" you ask.
Less is more. With simplicity comes peace, calm and lack of competition. It maintains a beauty all its own.
Jesus came to us in an unpretentious manner, putting on no airs. Mary, Joseph and Jesus led lives of humility and modesty. They filled their time with daily living and derived joy from ordinary existence. They seemed satisfied with their roles in life -- that of pleasing their God by seeking God's will for them.
The main concern, Jesus felt, was to bring people to God. He wasn't worried about their worldly stature, what they did for a living. He thought of their souls.
We are frequently bored with what we do. We would like to accomplish more, gain more prestige and attain more college degrees. Why? Does one believe that with a different job, more honors, a seemingly more exciting lifestyle that he will be happier? Think again and realize if one does his best at what needs to be done, that is challenge and excitement enough.
What we are searching for is right at our fingertips. Stress rules the lives of most people nowadays. We exist on such a high that it seems dull when we settle down, so we rush to find another avenue to satisfy our need for constant movement and excitement.
Ordinary life is anything but humdrum when you see what's underneath, what you're actually accomplishing, and the value of your deeds. Those seemingly insignificant chores are paving your way to heaven.
Jesus never received any honors or won any contests. His job was many times dreary, monotonous, repetitive and wearisome. Now the name of Jesus surpasses all others. It was the worth of what he did that counted.
This Christmas, slow down, ask how Jesus genuinely desires you celebrate his birthday, and see what he says to you.
Christmas is exciting, beautiful and enjoyable when you stop looking for worldly approval and follow your inner prompting. What brings you peace and fulfillment will be following God's voice within.
Ellen Shuck holds degrees in psychology, religious education and spiritual direction and provides spiritual direction to people at her office.