The meaning of Christmas reaches far beyond the day

Sunday, December 30, 2012

I bustled around, almost too busy to look much farther than Christmas Day. There was still shopping to do, lots of food to prepare, and guests to receive. It seemed I would never get everything together to help make the day a wonderful one for all my expected company. There were fewer hours in the day than I needed.

"Whew, all this for just one day," I thought. But the evident joy of those around me made it all worthwhile.

Our big family celebration is held on Christmas Eve and always at my house. Relatives, who seldom see each other, pile in all ready to partake of holiday fun, friendship, love and good food. Even though our so-called party is over in a matter of hours, family and their friends make the journey to participate every year.

Why do they make such an effort for such a short while? It's because the get-together provides a means for each person to reconnect with those who help give his life meaning. It's so heartwarming to realize the effort that people exert to show others they care and that you can't crush the spirit of those wanting to feel they belong somewhere and are loved and wanted.

A nephew who was unable to attend this year called from Afghanistan, although it was 5 a.m. there. We all felt sad that he was missing from our family troupe but felt warm inside knowing how much we meant to him. All that for just one day? As I contemplated that statement, I became aware of the extent that Jesus's birth changed our lives. In the midst of toil, gatherings and presents (Yes, we exchanged gifts, too.) something beautiful happens. Within the shadows of all the hoopla, without our knowledge, the message of our actions at Christmas carry out the significance of Christmas. Jesus came to give us life. The driving force behind people traveling long distances and taking time off from work -- for just that time -- is for love. Isn't that what Christmas is all about?

Many complain that Christmas has become too commercialized, that people don't celebrate in the right way. That view is valid to a point. We do share gifts, and incur a lot of trouble, but there is a valuable reason behind what we do. The motive is to be together because we love each other. Many overspend and wear themselves out doing what they feel they should do, but it's often their choice. You want certain people to know how much they're worth to you. You aren't doing the things you do to impress others. Rather, you want to show you care.

So you prepare for the day of Christmas or for the eve before it, but it stretches into the next year. We are vulnerable, delicate and fragile when it comes to our emotions and those who are dear to us. After contemplating that Christmas is just one day, it's what lies beyond that really counts. It is the ramifications that come from that one day and the meaning that prompts you to go to all that trouble for someone, to put yourself out a little, and to be bothered. Life is bother, isn't it?

To honor Jesus and give thanks for His birth is the real reason we celebrate that one day called Christmas Day. But life is about people who are the houses where Jesus lives. If you choose the hubbub as your means to spread the love of Jesus, then so be it. Just remember why you're stretching yourself and make worshipping God your first priority.

That one day brings about abundant blessings and results that reach farther than you may imagine. When you love someone, you care if your gift brings him joy. So never feel that your sacrifices were just for one day. The love you extend can last a lifetime.

Ellen Shuck holds degrees in psychology, religious education and spiritual direction and provides spiritual direction to people at her office.

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