[This Commentary originally appeared in the December 21, 1989 issue of The Mendon-Honeoye Falls-Lima Sentinel.]
As we find ourselves in the midst of the hectic holiday season, let us each make a personal commitment to enjoy the tranquil pleasance which surrounded that solemn manger scene some two thousand years ago.
Don’t get me wrong. In no way am I pressing piety on anyone. The aura of which I speak blesses all. The wonder of repose can – and should – be tasted by those of any persuasion. Divergent traditions – from ancient philosophy to modern psychology – all address the importance calmness and rest can have to the human spirit.
Silent Night. Holy Night. All is calm. All is quiet.
These short words pointedly proclaim that which pervades the very foundation of this season. For anyone who doubts the truth to these words, open your door or window at midnight on Christmas Eve and sense your surroundings. Perhaps our geography helps emphasize the theme, for the soft snow silences the crisp, clear evening air. One feels the intimacy of the serene stillness.
Quite a few people have requested the Christmas Commentary be devoted to such social ills as the plight of the homeless, the fight for literacy or the war against drug addiction. Somehow, the season of giving only magnifies the depths of the down-trodden, leaving us with a heightened awareness of their situation.
Yet, our concern for the less fortunate cannot be treated with any sort of chic casualness. Our desire to help the greater human community must not be limited to any particular season. Instead, our ardor must be consistent – and realistic.
This particular time of year, though, does have a unique theme which often goes unsung – even by those who cry a plea for the poor. To best share this strain, we must set the example. And we do have models to guide us. All the little Whos in Whoville brilliantly behold the Christmas Magic – sans gifts – when they come out to sing on Christmas morning.
Everyone knows the Whos didn’t need gifts to share the Joy of Christmas. Implicit in the story, though, lies the statement that the Whos didn’t rejoice only because they gave to the poor. So what Dr. Seuss tells us is Christmas has nothing to do with either receiving gifts (we all knew that) or giving gifts (well, maybe some of us knew that). Indeed, both merely represent the culmination – both symbolic and real – of the Meaning of Christmas.
The season’s motif really encompasses the paragraphs which start this essay. And it’s very difficult to discover the Christmas Bliss while waiting in the checkout line for several hours in a crowded toy store. The holiday celebrates a time for all to individually reflect upon our various endowments.
We think about what we have – not just to be thankful, but to uncloak what best we each can share with others. The process helps us identify both our strengths and our weaknesses. And – assuming we have enough time to truly consider all of which makes up our hidden selves – the process brings to us an inner peace. We thus contentedly renew our faith in our whole selves.
So we gladly give and, just as important, we gratefully receive. We share our best with all, and especially with those for whom we care most. In sharing we show selflessness and kinship. We also allow others to share with us, acknowledging our own imperfections at the same time. In other words, by accepting a gift, we admit we have certain needs only others can provide.
In truth, then, giving and receiving come to be a very important part of the Joy of Christmas. Still, they simply represent the end result of an arduous introspective process. We only experience the Enchantment of Christmas upon full consideration of our own place in the community of man.
So – once more – at midnight on Christmas Eve, go outside by yourself and just look around and listen for the silence. When you hear only your heart gently beating, you know you will be filled with the Joy of Christmas.
Best Wishes for a Very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to You and Your Families,
[What is this and why is here? See Interested in Discovering My Time Machine? for more details.]