The universe has thrown many distractions our way this year as Christmas approaches. The media latches onto every big story, pumping them for everything they have, blowing them up on our TV screens, on the radio, on our computers. Everywhere we look, there they are. For just a moment, disconnect, find some peace, and focus on what this season is really about.
Christmas is coming. Regardless of the manner in which you participate - be it religious or secular - the roots of the Christmas holiday still stem from the same source - love. For Christians, the Christmas holiday celebrates the birth of Jesus. As St. John the Devine teaches in the Gospel "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son." This gift of love is seen as the first Christmas gift and is supposed to be the model for our gift giving.
Santa Claus is modeled off the legend of St. Nicholas, a fourth century Greek Bishop living in modern day Turkey. St. Nicholas was known for his giving heart. One story, the one most likely to be based on historical fact, has St. Nick giving a bag of gold to a family three times - each the night before their three daughters come of age. St. Nick even goes so far to avoid recognition he drops a bag of gold down the chimney, landing it in a stocking hung to dry.
Whether you celebrate Christmas because of Jesus or simply to follow the gift giving of a fourth century saint, the idea behind the gifting still holds. Our gifts are supposed to be acts of love.
With more information about the Newtown, Connecticut shootings arriving every day, we might tend to focus on the plight of man instead of the hope portrayed in the Christmas message. While I can understand our concern at the failings of our society and the need for discussion on how to prevent such events from occurring again, if viewed from an incorrect position, our view of this Christmas season will definitely be skewed. As I suggested in Following the Ripples, keep your heart and soul set on love.
The shootings give us an opportunity to give a Christmas sized gift as well. The country is expending so much energy right now in figuring out how to prevent future mass killings. Some say limit guns, some say give everyone guns. Some focus on mental health care, some on video games. Everyone knows something needs to be done, but there is no consensus on the next step. Christmas is the perfect message and offers the perfect solution. We must follow the examples of the Bible and St. Nicholas - give love freely. Root every action in love. Teach love to your children through every thought and action. Love yourself, your neighbor, your community, etc.
A gift of love can change the world more than we can know. With so much attention on the so-called Mayan apocalypse, all our thoughts were on whether or not the world would end. Perhaps the end of the age was so much more simple than we thought. Maybe the end of the calendar only signaled a change in the way humans deal with each other. Perhaps now, we will choose to act through love in everything.
This Christmas, remember what is important. As the bumper sticker proclaims - "remember the reason for the season." That reason, ultimately, is love.