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December 24, 2013
A Christmas Thought (Or Two)
By Rick Winterson

Archeologists, theologians, and historians have devoted lifetimes of study to Christmas and the Coming, but it still remains a mystery.  We know only when the Birth took place (and we don’t even know that exactly).  We know it took place in Judea, probably in Bethlehem – the House of Bread – fulfilling the prophecy of Micah.  Bethlehem is near Jerusalem, which in those days was a sort of crossroads of the known world, between the East and the West.

The actual Christmas event is described only in the Gospels of Luke and Matthew.  Each of those two Gospels tells different stories, which complement each other.  From these Gospels come many traditions, such as the visit of the Magi, who brought gifts.  We bring Christmas gifts of our own two thousand years later.  We don’t forget Christmas.

The first Christmas was really quite a humble affair.  It took place in a stable, which at least was warm from the animals kept there.  The Babe was placed in a feeding trough, which we call a manger, and “wrapped in swaddling clothes” (read “diapers”). 

Shepherds came to visit.  These days, we look at shepherds tending their lambs in a kind of romantic way.  Back then, sheep herding was considered a distinctly unclean, lower class occupation, yet the angels on high appeared to them and specifically invited them to take part in the first Christmas.

But in order to rediscover the meaning of Christmas in this hectic, materialistic day and age, we perhaps should jump ahead to Christ’s later life, during which he spent much of his time among the poor.  We can find the Christmas message in other, more modern places as well – in Dickens’s “A Christmas Carol”, where Scrooge converts into a charitable man – “… and it was said that none could keep Christmas better than Ebenezer Scrooge.

”Consistently, Jesus Christ as an adult spoke of his regard for the unfortunates among us, and charged his listeners to care for them – “Whatever you have done for the least of My brethren, you have also done unto Me.”  In the Beatitudes from His Sermon on the Mount, He counseled us to “visit the sick”, “feed the hungry”, “comfort those who suffer”, and, well, even 2,000 years later, all of us really know what we must do.

Have we examples today of Christ-like behavior we can emulate at Christmas?  Yes, we do, and here’s just one of them.  South Boston Online suggests that we listen carefully to what Pope Francis I has to say about the world’s condition in 2013.  His message about caring for others is clear.  We don’t think that his choice of the name “Francis”, the patron saint of the poor, is any kind of coincidence.  There’s even a connection between St. Francis and Christmas.  St. Francis was the first person to set up a Christmas stable scene that actually used live animals, hence his being named the patron saint of animals.

Please enjoy Christmas.  Make it into a Joyful Season.  Make it last for more than just one day.  Make it special for your Loved Ones.  And then, in some way that you choose, make it special for someone else who needs your kindness.And please continue your concern for others into a Very Happy New Year in 2014.



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