So this is Christmas

So this is Christmas.  Who cares?

by Dave Cottrell
 

So this is Christmas.   Who cares?  That is a very loaded question that can certainly be taken more than one way.

So this is Christmas… What have you done?  These are some of the most memorable words of a well known John Lennon classic… It’s not that I am of all the same philosophy as the late John Lennon, but what he wrote about was very valid.  There is much sadness, heart break, and unfortunately, callousness in this world we all live in.    So This Is Christmas

The world is a cold and heartless place for so many children.  Even today, as I think of my friend who is a Syrian national, and a pastor and missionary in Syria and eastern Europe, I am reminded of all the terrible sadness he has shared with me from his beloved country.

Great cities have been bombed by fighting men from both sides into dark, cold and unrecognizable ruins, where those who still inhabit them struggle to stay warm.  Food, water, heat and safety are almost unknown.

My friend told me it is very difficult just to drive from one place to another.  About a month ago, his cousin was beheaded by one of the rebel groups for being a Christian.   Why did he and his family willingly stay there so long?  It is because they DO care.

Others say, “So this is Christmas… Who cares?”  in the same way some say, “Bah, humbug.”  They find life so miserable that they are apparently immune to the joy of those who are celebrating the holiday in places where people are still free enough to do so.

Others, when someone asked the same question as John Lennon, would say, “Don’t tell me their problems.  I have enough of my own.”

So this is Christmas.  Who cares?  I guess in order to begin to answer that question, perhaps even in our own hearts, it would help to understand the origins of Christmas.  What is it all about, anyway?

Christmas, or Christ Mass, was originally a holiday (holy day) started by the Roman Catholic church (RCC).  Down through the years, it was shortened to the familiar, “Christmas.”  It was set aside to celebrate the nativity, or birth, of Jesus Christ.  Adlandpro_bogdan_fiedur_nativity

But what so important about the birth of one Jewish baby that an organization as large as the RCC would set aside a day, a very holy day (holiday), a special Mass day for him?

According to the Holy Bible, made up of what is known by Christians as the Old Testament (also holy to the Jews) and the New Testament (written after the birth of Jesus Christ), this child was the long promised Messiah.

In Isaiah 9:6, written some 700 years before the birth of Jesus, we read the familiar words heard every Christmas as part of Handel’s “Messiah:”  “For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.”

For anyone who will take the time to pick up a Bible and continue to read from that passage, it is a prophecy of the long awaited Messiah, the Deliverer first promised to Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, right after they disobeyed God.  According to the Bible, and indeed, as Jesus himself taught, God was not caught off guard by the fall of man and already had a plan in place to redeem mankind and return us to a good relationship with God as our eternal and loving heavenly Father.

Again, according to this same Bible, God originally created humans in the image of God;  that is, he created humans as spiritual beings with the ability to think, create, love, and very importantly, choose freely.  Giving humans absolute freedom to choose was perhaps not the choice that any of us would have made if we knew the mess we would make of this world, having such freedom.  But the wisdom is apparent when we stop and realize that love is only love if there is a choice.  If choice it taken away, love ceases to exist.

What the Bible says, especially near the end of the New Testament, is that God the Father and Jesus Christ the Son knew the price that would have to be paid for giving us this freedom to choose.  There was no way for humans to repair the damage done by our wrong choices, so he planned to solve the problem before he even created the first people.  If you believe the Bible, it becomes apparent that Jesus Christ created the world with God the Father (that’s what John, chapter one says), and he knew the suffering he would have to go through in order to regain the spiritual life that we’ve all given up by our own choices since the very first humans.

Yet he did it willingly, the Bible says, because he does care.  The Bible says he laid aside his glory in heaven so that he could be born as that little, helpless, child, the baby Jesus we see depicted in the Nativity scenes at Christmas.  The Bible says he even went to the cross willingly as an adult in the place of all humanity for the joy that was set before him, and that joy that he looked forward to was to be the first human being of many new brothers and sisters to rise from the dead.

Finally, the Bible says it is a gift.  Those of us who celebrate Christmas and are able to do it like to give and receive gifts.  This is one of the most important parts of the celebration for many, many people, and if we believe what the Bible says, it is a very good way to honour the One whose birth is being celebrated, because he gave himself as a gift for us all.

His gift, the reason he came, the “reason for the season,” was to give his life for all of us as a gift.  A gift can’t be earned.  It is given freely, and must be received freely.

We celebrate Christmas best when we give gifts in celebration of the true and original meaning of Christmas without expecting anything in return.  In fact, it is only really a gift IF we expect nothing in return.  But there is even more.  We also celebrate Christmas best when we accept gifts joyfully without feeling any kind of obligation to give something in return.  A gift is only a gift when it is both given freely and accepted freely.

When we think about the origins of Christmas, the arrival of God in the flesh (again, that is in John, chapter one.  That’s who Jesus Christ is, according to the Bible), perhaps we can pause to reflect a little deeper and think about that incredible giving.  It wasn’t just a gift of something “affordable” from some department store.  It was the gift of self, of a life for the lives of others.

When we turn on our TV sets or check out the news on our computers, tablets, ipads, smartphones, etc., and see the intense suffering of others, especially little, helpless children, perhaps it will move us to take a moment to send a little something to help someone somewhere and make their Christmas, or even their every day life a little brighter.

All of us can afford to do that.  If we drink coffee, if we give up one cup a day, even at home, it adds up.  Any of us can make that kind of very tiny sacrifice, yet that little thing can go a long way when a lot of people are doing it.

You don’t have even have to give to the huge organizations you see spending untold fortunes advertising on TV for dollars that are supposed to be helping children.  You can check in your own community, or go online, or ask at a local church, or go donate something at a Salvation Army (in fact, their kettles are everywhere at this time of the year).  Volunteer at a soup kitchen or drop some food at a local food bank.  Get a group of friends together, buy some nice presents, and deliver them to a family in your own neighborhood who are struggling.  There’s a lot you can do.

Here’s another hint:  Next time you buy something using Paypal, check out the box that asks if you want to make a donation to a charity.  It might be the exact right one and right time for you to do that.

John Lennon had some ideas that I don’t agree with and that I would have loved to have chatted with him about if I had had the opportunity.

But the question he asked in his song about the way we care at Christmas is really important for all of us to reflect upon.  So this is Christmas… What have you done?  Children are crying and shivering and dying around the world.  Who cares?  I hope we all really do.

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