Christmas has been a special time of the year for as long as I remember. People were nicer. Things slowed down a bit so ordinary folks could enjoy the Christmas Season. We had very little when I was growing up. One year when things were especially tight my mother and I walked six blocks on Christmas Eve to purchase a Christmas tree for the two dollars we could afford. I didn’t mind as long as I could open that magical box which contained all of the ornaments, some pre-dating World War I.
As little as we had, we always shared our bounty with folks a few blocks away who had even less. I well can remember the tears of joy running down the cheeks of one family living in a one-room apartment when we came bearing gifts and food for Christmas dinner. These people had traveled to Wisconsin from Alabama to work in the Case Company Plant a few blocks from my home. Tanks were made there during World War II. The War was over. The father of the household, which consisted (if I recall the incident correctly after 59 years) of parents, a grandmother and six children, had been laid off and could not find work.
There was no Christmas tree in this tiny apartment. The children slept on the floor near an oil stove because Wisconsin winters were colder then. Their grandmother slept in a big old overstuffed chair. The parents had a bed. It was shoved off in a corner of this “living room.” There were no wrapped presents. There was so little it made us mighty thankful for what we did have, which by the standards of that era, wasn’t much. The family did have God and each other. They sang a spiritual for us in thanksgiving for our remembering them. We didn’t know them at all. We never had met. Somehow we found out about their plight and we were not about to let Christmas pass without sharing our blessings.
Christmas was like that. Yes, it was commercialized. Yes, Santa Claus was front and center, being a distorted copy of St. Nicholas, who was Archbishop of Myra in Licia during the 4th Century. St. Nicholas, the patron saint of children, secretly would deliver food, clothing and gold to the poor and presents to poor children who had been good during the year.
The Church celebrated St. Nicholas Day on December 6. That blended in nicely with Christmas. I never did find out what happened to that poor family from Alabama, one of several whom we visited in the years following World War II. If any family members are alive I doubt they would remember that nocturnal visit.
Often giving does more for the giver than the recipient. It made our family Christmas better. Because we were Christians we took pride in the celebration of the Holy Day which bears Christ’s name. It didn’t matter that many who advertised Christmas did not accept the Biblical account of the first Christmas.
The late Archbishop Joseph-Marie Raya, who had served for many years in the region where Christ was born, lived, died on the Cross and rose again, would say, “Don’t be afraid to celebrate Christmas. Enjoy the lights. Enjoy even the advertisements. Don’t worry about commercialism. Whatever [the merchants] do they are proclaiming the birth of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” Archbishop Raya was correct. It has upset many Christians that Christmas has been banned from the public square.
Some people, such as conservative columnist Cal Thomas, have said this doesn’t matter. If we celebrate the true meaning of Christmas in our homes and churches let the merchants have their “Happy Holidays.” Cal and I have been friends for over two decades. No one has been kinder to me about the usefulness of these commentaries. It pains me to disagree with Cal but I must. It is significant that Christmas is banned from most stores. It is highly significant that it has become politically incorrect to wish someone a “Merry Christmas.” 85% of Americans say they are Christian. 96% of Americans say they celebrate Christmas.
Jewish comedian Jackie Mason, a founder of Jews Against Anti-Christian Defamation, hired a car to fly banners that read, "Jews for It's OK to Say 'Merry Christmas.' "On Thursday he drove up and down New York’s Fifth Avenue and stopped at many retails stores in which Merry Christmas was not permitted to be recognized. For the first time in my life - after decades of Christians marginalized, of Christianity being insulted by some comedians, of our Faith ridiculed, I have heard Christians saying, “Enough is enough.”
Each time retail stores have advertised a Christmas sale the owners may not have cared about the true meaning of Christmas but they were acknowledging the legitimacy of this important Christian Holy Day. That is why it matters that Christmas has been banned from Wal-Mart. I hope Christians take this insult seriously and I hope that the Wal-Mart bottom line suffers during the Christmas Season.
Let us return to a time when ordinary folks were not afraid to wish others a Merry Christmas. Let us return to a time when Christmas was so special that even petty dictators would make a gesture to acknowledge the Christmas Season. Let us return to a time when people were nicer to each other this time of the year and when store clerks wanted to wait on you at Christmastime. Let us return to a time when we remember that we celebrate Christmas in recognition of the gift which God gave to us, His Only Begotten Son, who came into the world to unlock the keys to paradise once more. Therefore, we must share what we have with those less fortunate than ourselves.
You may reason that you donated to the Tsunami Relief and to victims of Hurricane Katrina and of the many tornadoes. There is nothing left. Really? Re-examine what you have. Even if you are among the 5% unemployed and you live below the poverty line, I guarantee you there is someone who is worse off than you.
Christmas is the time for the recognition of that truth. Therefore, it is time to share your possessions with those who are less fortunate. Sharing is one of the many gifts my parents gave me in those years when we had so little. I remain grateful for what they did.
I hope that this Christmas Season you will have a blessed time. I hope you will go out of your way to say, “Merry Christmas” to anyone who wishes you “Happy Holidays.” I hope you will remember to thank God for the greatest of all gifts which He gave us. I hope you also will remember to thank Him for continuing to bless us. I hope you will remember to give something to those who have yet to be as blessed as you are. And I hope you will be as thankful as I am for a wonderful family with whom I can share Christmas.
It is rare indeed that Christmas and Hanukkah fall on the same day. Hanukkah, too, is endangered if the God-hating secularists have their way. A reporter for Irish Radio, who interviewed me last week about the Christmas controversy, works in a building in which many European broadcasters share the use of common satellites and common time zones. A Christmas tree was placed in the foyer. Someone placed a menorah next to the Christmas tree, no doubt in recognition that Christmas and Hanukkah fall on the same day this year. The building management removed the menorah because, God forbid, it has religious significance. Now others are demanding that the Christmas tree be removed for the same reason.
Make no mistake about it. If the secular left, the cultural Marxists, succeed in robbing us of Christmas they won’t stop there. It won’t be long before we will no longer be free to worship as we please in our own churches and synagogues.
God so loved the world that he gave us Jesus Christ. I hope and pray God still loves us enough to help us keep the spirit of Christmas not only alive in America but well indeed. Merry Christmas, and as Tiny Tim Cratchit said “God bless us every one.”