This time of year always makes me wonder what we are doing and why we do it. We are spending like there is no tomorrow (maybe there won’t be). We buy things we don’t need only because they are at a price we “cannot refuse.” We are decorating our houses so those that go by will think well of us. We sing songs and go to programs about Christmas that hopefully make us feel good. We have meals with friends that we enjoy. We have meals with family that many times devolve into harsh feelings and arguments or disappointment. Retailers tell us we need to buy lots of stuff so they can have a good year (Really? This is a reason to buy something?). And it goes on … and on … and on. And, oh yes. We try to stop and rejoice about the birth of Christ. But, that just gets in the way for some people.
The celebration of Christmas has an interesting history. The exact day or birth of Christ has been debated over the centuries. While the birth of Christ is estimated at between 7 and 2 B.C., there is no historical proof that it was December 25. By the mid-fourth century, the Western Christian Church had designated December 25 as the date of birth.
The early settlers of America did not celebrate Christmas and even thought it was heresy to do so. In the United States, Christmas was not designated as a national holiday until 1870. It has evolved over the years to have many forms of worship and secular celebration including trees, a guy that comes down a chimney, reindeer and sleighs, and gift giving. Ah, gift giving. That’s where this gets to be a combination of interesting, annoying and downright narcissistic.
Interesting because we buy and use gift giving both as a form of personal satisfaction and a form of filling needs. Annoying because we expect things and if we don’t get them we feel deprived. Narcissistic because we feel we deserve whatever we ask for and it’s someone else’s fault if we don’t get it. You might say at this point, “Well, those are basic feelings and behaviors of children at Christmas.” Really? Be honest with yourself. I have, and I am interesting, annoying and narcissistic. As any psychiatrist will tell you: The first thing to do about a problem is to recognize you have a problem!
So, enough of my lamentations about what Christmas has become. I try to enjoy it as a celebration of the birth of Christ. It is not the most important celebration in Christianity. That comes on Easter and commemorates Christ’s suffering, death and resurrection – the basis of Christianity.
All this brings me to ask the question we see printed on simple bracelets: WWJD. “What would Jesus do” if he were alive today? No doubt he would take great offense at what we have done with a Christian holiday. He would likely treat us like he treated the money changers in the Temple courtyard and became quite the rabble rouser.
Instead, wouldn’t it be better to act like he would have? Give to the poor, feed the hungry, heal the sick, befriend the lonely and treat each other like we would like to be treated. How about pooling all our dollars spent on each other and use it for these purposes?
A good way to do that is through local organizations like Love INC, the Food Shelf, The Salvation Army, and the local Jingle Bells outreach.
I’m just sayin’. Have a Blessed Christmas and give to those in need.
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DuWayne Paul of Alexandria is a regular contributing columnist for the Echo Press.