The writer, Deborah Whipp, said, “Like snowflakes, my Christmas memories gather and dance—each beautiful, unique, and gone too soon.”
Indeed, we all have memories of Christmas days from our past. Some are of our childhood, others of our family, and our own children. And to us, those memories are beautiful, they are unique, and yes, they are times gone way too soon. We grew up and are no longer children; our families have changed, and moved along, or are gone, but not forgotten. And our own children are already grown, and on their own, or soon will be. But even the hands of time can’t stop our memories, especially not those we have of Christmas.
The evangelist sister of President Jimmy Carter, Ruth Carter Stapleton, tells us, “Christmas is most truly Christmas when we celebrate it by giving the light of love to those who need it most.”
If I have learned anything from my years in the ministry and studies in my faith, it is a simple truth that Christmas is love. We don’t just celebrate the birth of Jesus. We celebrate the lessons and examples he set for us to learn about the love of God. And how we should live within that love throughout our lives. Christmas is a special time where we share our love with others and receive their love in return. If we are celebrating this holiday as we should, then the love of God will be prominent in all we say and do. I believe that God would have us do this every day regardless if it is Christmas or just another Monday.
The novelist Taylor Caldwell wrote, “And that, of course, is the message of Christmas. We are never alone. Not when the night is darkest, the wind coldest, the world seemingly most indifferent…”
This quote seemed most appropriate for this year. As I look at where we are today, it truly does seem the nights, and even the days, are darker now than they were a few years back. The cold, harsh winds of discontent, confusion, division, and fear are hollowing all across our nation and touching every one of us. The world around us does seem to be growing more indifferent every day. But in all of this, there is the message of Christmas, that though we might not be together in person, we are never alone. For in our hearts, we hold tightly to the love we have for each other and the love of God that will truly prevail in the end.
The Catholic Saint, Mother Theresa said, “It’s not how much we give but how much love we put into giving.”
I hear a lot of complaining about how Christmas has become too commercialized. We seem to look more at the material gifts we receive than to the love that was expressed by the giver. Without first having love for another, there would be no reason to give them anything. I don’t believe in a “little love” or a “lot of love.” I believe in just love; it has no size, it just is, and our life isn’t complete without it.
The artist and writer Agnes M. Pahro wrote, “What is Christmas? It is the tenderness of the past, courage for the present, and hope for the future.”
This is a quote we should all hold dear. Indeed, Christmas is stopping all the activities, finding a quiet moment, and with great tenderness of heart, remembering our yesterdays. Christmas is facing the realities of today head-on and letting the moment of this time make new memories. Christmas isn’t complete without it bringing us a renewed hope for our future. Whether it might be for years to come or just for tomorrow, it can’t happen in the future without hope today.
The author, Eric Sevareid, once said, “There has to be at least one day of the year to remind us that we’re here for something else besides ourselves.”
There seem to be many “myself” people around today, much more than I remember from past years. We seem to be self-centered, self-engaged, and to many self-righteous too. But my hope for you this Christmas is that you will put yourself aside and realize that one of the reasons we celebrate this holiday is to remind us that there are others besides ourselves, and they matter just as much as you.
The famous architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, said, “God is in the details.”
Having spent most of my adult life within the profession of architecture, I can say that Mies was correct. And now, focusing my life on the ministry, I find the work of God is all detail, and to not look at God’s detail is to miss out on God’s message for you. At Christmas, we tend to overlook the details and want to see only the big picture. If we would focus on the details, then we would find who God really is and should be in our lives. The details will reveal the truth for our lives, and that truth will set us free in more ways than we can imagine. Those details will let us relive those memories of our childhood through the lives of the children and others around us. We can once again have the magic of Christmas touch our hearts, and fill us with joy and happiness. The simple things we take for granted will take on new and special meanings as we let the excitement of the day lift us out of our comfort zone and fill us with peace.
The writer, Kevin Alan Milne, wrote, “Christmas magic is silent. You don’t hear it — you feel it. You know it. You believe it.”
Christmas is magic within itself. The myths, stories, songs, and even the atmosphere of Christmas are all filled with magic. If you don’t feel it, then you need to readjust yourself until you do. Then you will truly know that magic, and in your heart, you can believe. I don’t need to believe that the myths we are told concerning Christmas are fact. But that doesn’t stop me from enjoying and loving the season and all it brings. Regardless of how we believe, we should let the magic of this day fill our hearts and minds, and just like a child, marvel at all the excitement, joy, and love that fills the air. That’s what Christmas is all about, living the love of God from our heart to all others.
I know this has been a difficult year for most of us, but I will believe in the magic of Christmas and the hope for the world that this day brings. And I will pray that God will guide us into the future to a place of safety, joy, peace, unity, and love. Merry Christmas to you all!
Rev. Dr. Shannon Rogers, DDiv, Sr. Pastor and President, Unitarian Christian Church of America (UCCA)