The Star-Herald

The true meaning of Christmas

It seems every year about this time I think of times long ago when our lack of technology and the slower pace of life seemed to draw us closer to the true Christmas spirit. 

Take, for example, the era illustrated in the paintings of Norman Rockwell, when rotary telephones and radios were all they had and many children were probably waiting for a new Radio Flyer sled for Christmas. Evenings for young and old often involved ice skating on the local rink.

Rockwell captured the humanity of his subjects, and the soul of America became the heart-warming covers of the Saturday Evening Post. My favorite of his paintings is titled “Saying Grace,” which is on my kitchen wall. In this, a young boy and his grandmother say grace in a crowded restaurant with all the patrons looking curiously. Rockwell knew that people were very proud of their faith and there was no hesitation in putting it on a national magazine. 

Do our advanced technology, modern lifestyle and political correctness make the true meaning of Christmas seem more distant?

I always enjoy the Christmas movies of the past. I have a special liking of all of Frank Capra’s movies, but his best is the perennial favorite “It’s A Wonderful Life.” Who hasn’t seen this at least a dozen times? We see in the movie how George Bailey’s guardian angel allows him to see his town as though George had never been born. What kind of a contrast would we see in our world if Christ had never been born?

Does the secular world need their guardian angels to show them what life on earth would be like without Christ’s influence? All that embodies the Christmas spirit — love, caring, unselfish giving, peace and goodwill to mankind — would be missing.

The other great Christmas tale, which tells us we are never too late to find the Christmas spirit, is the story of Ebenezer Scrooge in Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol.” The film version I like best has George C. Scott playing Scrooge. Scott does an extremely good job of showing the drastic contrast that takes place in Scrooge before and after the three ghosts of Christmas visit him. He is truly a different person after his visits are complete, and he sees for the first time the people around him who are struggling, the people he avoided so he wouldn’t have to respond to their pain and suffering. He now becomes a likable person and wants to be liked by these people who have entered his new life. 

I don’t need three ghosts to show me I need more of the reformed Scrooge in my life.

My thoughts are of that first silent night, when the world was totally changed by one solitary vulnerable child, the greatest child ever born yet with the greatest humility of being born in a stable. His birth transformed the world, and how he came to us tells the message that his kingdom is not of this world. I believe his coming tells us that faith in God, trust and love of mankind are forever what we all should strive for. 

I think we have no greater need than to keep Christ in Christmas. We are all invited to hold onto the true meaning of Christmas and share our joy in the Christmas spirit with just two cherished words: Merry Christmas.

Peter Pinette lives in Woodland.

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