As is with any festival, Christmas has many traditions and customs, which are being carried forward by families the world over. These traditions and customs may be as varied as the diversity in cultures. Some though are common to everyone celebrating Christmas in any part of the world.
One of the most popular traditions on Christmas is exchanging gifts on Christmas eve or Christmas morning. Everyone loves receiving gifts on Christmas. Children, with their innocence wait eagerly for Santa Claus to bring them gifts. In many countries children hang stockings believing that Santa Claus will fill it with goodies. But, as adults we understand the significance of giving more than receiving and plan way ahead to get something thoughtful for our near and dear ones.
Commenting on the true essence of Christmas, 19th century Methodist missionary in Canada, George Millward McDougall said: “Christmas means a spirit of love, a time when the love of God and the love of our fellow men should prevail over all hatred and bitterness, a time when our thoughts and deeds and the spirit of our lives manifest the presence of God.”
This comment says it all. Christmas is not all about merry making. We must also spare time to reflect on the essence of the period, which is the love of God for humanity.
This unquantifiable love is summed up in the popular bible verse John 3: 16 which states: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”
When we ponder on God’s love for us, we too are encouraged to share love with others, to embrace peace and be our brother’s keeper. When we are imbued with this love of God, we will be always willing to give a helping hand to those in need and give succour and comfort to the vulnerable.
At Christmas, we are expected to spare time to contemplate on things eternal. That is, we must remind ourselves that we are strangers here on earth; that our real home is in heaven. And that no matter how long we live, we shall sure die some day.
So many people who started the year 2014 are no longer around to finish it. Like others, they commenced the New Year with high hopes and aspirations. Some may have planned to marry this year, to buy a new car or to move into their new apartment. But alas, all those are now pipe dreams, which will never materialize. Thus, we should all count ourselves lucky to be alive to see this Christmas. This should therefore be a period of gratitude to God for sparing our lives and counting us among the living. It should equally be an opportunity for us to mend our ways with God so that we will not be found wanting.
The spirit behind Christmas is that of giving and sharing.
The three wise men, on learning about the born child, came calling with gifts of gold, incense and myrrh. The Christmas heart is a giving heart, a wide open heart that thinks of others first. The birth of the baby Jesus stands as the most significant event in all history because it brought hope and healing into a sick world.
Therefore, in the midst the delicious meals, sweet drinks, lovely songs and dances, beautiful friends and family members we would come across this season, it is important that we remember the child who was born on a winter night so cold, whose bed was made only of hay and animal food; the Lord Jesus Christ, who taught us all what real, genuine and unconditional love is.
As we celebrate His birth, let us be human and kind enough to remember and show some love to those motherless babies, helpless orphans, hospital patients, prisoners, beggars and all those who are not fortunate enough to be actively involved in the celebration.
Until we see you again next year, do have a Merry Christmas.