Honoring Christmas

The nostalgia and memories of the season make Christmas my favorite time of the year.

I come from a family where fireside stories are a tradition. As a child, I’d lay on the floor with my little brother and listen as my dad read story after story. Often, dad would fall asleep mid-sentence long before we were ready to close our eyes.

One holiday tale stands out in my memory. It’s an old familiar yarn with a compelling lesson for us in the final days of 2021.

In Charles Dickens’ holiday classic, A Christmas Carol, Ebenezer Scrooge is a dried-up, angry old man. He’s hated by many and despised by even more. He’s the kind of person, one might find today, writing diatribes and cutting comments online. Heartless, devoid of compassion and empathy.

Following a series of wild midnight visits with his past, present and future, Scrooge undergoes a dramatic transformation. Even his own family barely recognizes him.

In that profoundly illuminating moment, Scrooge says, "I will honor Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year."

With the holidays here and the new year only days away, I took a little time to reflect on what it means to honor Christmas all year long. My thoughts quickly turned to Isaiah 7. He prophesied that Jesus would be called Emmanuel. God with us.

Picturing God with us is a sobering mental exercise. When the Creator left heaven, He wriggled into a little human body subject to cholic and gas, splinters and skinned knees. He took on our infirmities. Things like hatred, intolerance, pride, indifference and every ugly vice with which we wrestle.

He lived with all of that darkness and still managed to show us the Father. Jesus embodied divine love, pointing a way beyond the darkness to hope.

Helen Steiner Rice, the American writer said, “Peace on earth will come to stay, when we live Christmas every day.”

I’d like to build on what Rice said and put that into practical terms. For me, living Christmas every day means living out God’s love that Jesus embodied for us. Living out love in what I say and what I do.

That’s a tall order, one I’m certainly not up for on my own. And yet, per Jesus' example, it’s not a mountain I have to climb on my own. He’s given us the Holy Spirit. Just as He walked among us in human form, He is still with us through the Spirit.

I love what the author, Christine Szymanski, said, "During the holiday season, in fact all year long, wrap yourself around another's presence, not presents."

And that’s the key. It’s His presence that enables living out what Dickens calls honoring Christmas. It is God with us that empowers a life of love, not just at Christmas but all year long.