My thoughts (John Seksay):
What does Christmas mean to me?
Is it a spiritual holiday, in which I commemorate the birth of Jesus? Yes, although I know that we will never know the actual true date for that event. It is an instituted calendar date that has become firmly encrusted with a range of cultural traditions — some even pre-Christian — that celebrate the turning of the year.
I imagine that the earliest form of this season was celebrated by each small tribe of humanity, huddled around a fire in a cave, watching the heavens to see the signs for the return of the warmth and growth that would allow them sustenance for another year.
For me, my perception of the holiday altered when I was a member of a different faith, with a different set of holy days. That religious tradition, like the Magi of the Christmas story, also came from Persia. My “Christmas” season fell at the end of February every year. But the process — reflecting on the renewal of the calendar year and the giving of gifts as a way to be close with family and community members — fulfilled the same emotional need for connection in a spiritual context.
Is it a time to engage in a major shopping frenzy to see how much I can give to how many? Not so much anymore. When I was young, I was going to live forever and there would be countless Christmases to come, with all the time in the world to prepare for each one. I always tended to want a great deal of stuff and assumed the people I loved would always be around.
Now I have a much deeper appreciation for people: the people that I took for granted when I was young, the people that I grew up with, the people that I added to this amazing world. Now the best gift I can get each year is to not lose the presence of those that I hold close in my heart. These are the most precious gifts.
But that is the key to the best Christmas of all. At some point, the cycle of the calendar will come to a close for me, and I will be pulled from under the Tree of Life by God as a gift from Jesus, and be presented for those who went before me. That Christmas will have no end and will always be full of joy! That will be the best holiday ever!
Thought for the day: Christmas celebrates a birth that led to us becoming more fully aware of the spiritual rebirth that awaits us. What a gift!
We encourage you to include a time of prayer with this reading. If you need a place to get started, consider the suggestions on the How to Pray page.