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The season goes deeper than greetings

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The Christmas season is upon us. The purists would point out that we actually are in the season of advent. The time before the Nativity in which Christians eagerly anticipate the coming of their Messiah on Christmas Day. But, in general we consider ourselves in the “holiday season,” whatever that may mean.

In recent years there has been some debate over how people greet one another during this time of year. Is it appropriate to wish a non-Christian a “Merry Christmas?” Is it an offense to use the more generic “Happy Holidays?”

Those who would drive spiritual references from all public spaces are pushing for the secular greeting, “Happy Holidays,” in place of the traditional “Merry Christmas.” After all, they point out, not everyone subscribes to the belief system from which Christmas sprang. Why should they be subjected to what some may consider a religious slogan or effort to proselytize?

Christmas is a holiday deeply rooted in religion and it’s a celebration that has imbued all segments of our society, religious and non-religious as well. In our culture it has become more than just a reason to decorate the church and sing special hymns. In fact, those who approach the season with a more spiritual bent generally complain over the commercial hijacking of one of their most holy days. While the secularist bridles at “Merry Christmas” the religious person sees materialism encroaching where spirituality should be.

For the Christian the holiday is about God reaching down to man. It is the offering of His only son as a gift. The supreme act of selflessness by an omnipotent God to His impotent creation. In appreciation of that act of love, Christians adopted and modified practices of religions they followed before Christianity into a celebration of God’s love. Decorations, gifts, fellowship all adapted to commemorate an example of divine love. A love it was believed would draw all people together. A love that conquers hate.

There are those who don’t necessarily buy into the religious message, but they felt the broader message begin to resonate. The idea of a love that transcends the day-to-day was especially soothing. The celebration of such a love brought out the better angels among us. It tells us that we can be better than we are by being better to one another. Parents know better than anyone the source of Christmas joy.

Watching the unbridled joy of children on Christmas morning is a special experience. As happy as a child is upon receiving a favorite gift, it is nothing compared to the feeling parents get at witnessing the exuberant joy of their children.

Joy is in giving, not receiving.

By following the example set by God in the Christmas story we learn what truly makes us happy. We enjoy the love that sets us free by giving up our own desires for the happiness of others. It is what we mean when we talk about the Christmas Spirit. It is what drives people to donate to causes to help those who aren’t as fortunate. It is the reason volunteers ring bells in the cold and parents buy extra toys for children not their own.

Christmas brings out the best in us. It reminds us of the need for magic in our lives. It reminds us to keep life in perspective and to remember that we can have an impact on the lives around us that goes beyond the day-to-day.

That sounds like a divine love along the lines of the love described in the original Christmas story. So, if you want to wish your friends and neighbors a “Merry Christmas,” then, by all means, do that. If you would rather say “Happy Holidays,” do that as well. But never forget what Christmas is about.

It is about a love that’s greater than we are.

The Durant Democrat wishes you and yours a very Merry Christmas and the Happiest Holiday season.

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