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On the true meaning of Christmas
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Our country, our culture, our world, is crammed full of holidays. The English word “holiday” originally came from the word “holy day” commemorating special events in the Christian calendar year. However, the definition now is “vacation,” “leisure time for pleasure,” most usually time away from work for that rest or pleasure.
We celebrate at least one holiday a month in the U.S. The world loves holidays. Besides, they keep the economy alive. Monthly holidays give people a chance to buy a Hallmark card, a box of candy, a gift, a valentine, flowers, food, you name it.
Christmas is the big leader. True, we celebrate the birthday of Jesus, and that is the designated time even though we do know he was most likely born in the Spring. But, that’s o.k. We celebrate Him. But we also play the commercial card. We buy. We give. We decorate. We consume!
Media hype for Christmas is carefully and strategically marketed. The magazines portray families laughing, feasting, opening gifts; the ideal tree, the perfect family unit.
Some of this makes me sad.
Because I am a part of it all, and I know that even in the most magical household, everything is not perfect. I, too, love Christmas. But, I see that the ideal; the decorated tree, the wreath on the door, Santa, the family gathering, the gifts, the children all nestled snug in their bed...all of this is a blown up, over-indulged, fantasy that many families and individuals cannot ever experience. And the worst part is that many think they are failing if their experience doesn’t “look like” the hyped up magazine/movie experience.
Here’s my take.
Depression is a major malady in this country of ours. Many suffer from despair, depression, insecurity, or anxiety. Take your pick. It’s a challenge for them just to get out of bed. And suicides are more prevalent during the holidays.
Hundreds of children in our American system are either living in poverty or close to poverty conditions, and there are as many being placed in foster care. They see ads and movies portraying the ideal commercial Christmas. It’s no wonder that they are expectant of more than can be delivered. And single parents are struggling as well, wanting to give their child/children a Christmas that at least will provide something special on that Christmas day.
It has to be very difficult for them all.
While sharing in the grade school last year as “Picture Lady” showing different artists and their different styles of expression, I focused (in November) on the famous American illustrator, Norman Rockwell. While I was showing them the famous Rockwell illustration of the delighted family members gathered around the Thanksgiving dinner table while Gramma presented the big, fat turkey, a little girl at the back of the classroom began to cry out loud. “I don’t have a family (like that)!” I wrapped my arms around her, and I comforted her as best as I could.
I felt that I had been so very insensitive.
Then, there are the homeless ones. We often blame them for their condition and the situation in which they have lost everything. But, how shallow can we be? There but for the Grace of God go we. We don’t know their stories. It’s not us living in those tents, or on those steps, or under those overpasses so we can so easily tell ourselves we are too busy to care. Well, we are, aren’t we? We have lives, and cares, and responsibilities! But this tragic and pitiful situation among our countrymen continues.
Our son in California remarked how many tents and sleeping bags are lined up in the parks; so many without a place to lie their head. And it is getting to be a big problem here in Kansas as well.
I remember the One who experienced the same thing. He said in Luke 9:58 “Foxes have dens, and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place even to lay His head”.
There’s our Hope, you see. And He is our very best example of celebration of life with so very little; born in a stable amid the hay bins and barn stock; giving joy and peace without the need of a fancy tree, a big feast, and gifts galore. No, in fact, the Kings brought the gifts to Him; gold, frankincense and myrrh.
And He came for us with only one purpose, and that was the Cross.
Joy comes from this Savior; and not all that commercial stuff.
I think we all feel out of control at times during holidays. Even those with the most, elaborate, fairy-tale preparations feel it also. So maybe the change needs to begin with us.
I truly don’t know how to do that. But I can keep my eyes open and my ears unstopped so that I can hear the needs around me. And there are many needs and cries during this time.
Lord, give me the Grace and Love to hear and say, “Send me!”
And in all of this, of course, I am going to celebrate. We will have gifts, and food, and decorations at our home. But, first, I don’t want to forget those who can’t participate.
It’s O.K. to have fun. But don’t forget him who is in need, who might not be who you think he is. Let’s stay alert!
“For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me”. Matt. 25.
There’s just a week now until Christmas. So let’s do it!

Judi Tabler lives in Pawnee County and is a guest columnist for the Great Bend Tribune. She can be reached at