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On the Journey...
Monthly Insight From Pastor Phil Yoder
December 11, 2019
The True Meaning of Christmas
I think Christmas is my favorite time of the year, and it is for many other people too. I like the family reunions, the Christmas Carols, the Christmas story, manger scenes, eggnog, and cheese fondue. I like the lights, the festive spirit, especially Handel’s Messiah, and many other special things about Christmas. I have so many good memories of going to Grandma’s house and all my cousins would be there, of sled riding, and gift exchanges, and playing in the snow.
I have a friend in Moldova who told me that Christmas was her least favorite day in the whole year, in fact she dreaded that time of year so much that it makes her physically sick. I asked her why she doesn’t like Christmas. It is, after all, the day we remember the birth of our savior, and even for those who do not have faith, they still can enjoy the festive atmosphere.
Irina told me that when she was 10 years old, her father was very ill, and he died on Christmas Eve. The body was taken away, then returned to their home on Christmas Day. It was on Christmas day the casket was opened and their family gathered around it to grieve and to weep. Irina said that as a child, the grief was unbearable, and that she has never gotten over it. She was the eldest of four siblings, and even at age 10, she felt some of the burden that had just fallen on her mother having to raise four little children in dire poverty with no husband, no father for the children, and no breadwinner.
The truth is that there are many in our world who do not join in our Christmas joy. They feel all alone because their family has fallen apart, or they are in a hospital, in a nursing home, in a prison, in a homeless shelter, or in a refugee camp. Some live without a home, without food, or without love, while the world celebrates, and it is painful. Christmas often is a very difficult season for those who have lost loved ones recently or endured other losses in their lives.
At the heart of all of our reunions, and festivities, and giving and receiving of gifts is love. The thing that gives Christmas its real meaning is love. I have sometimes wondered how God felt the day He said good-bye to His Son in heaven and sent him to earth, knowing the fate that would fall on Jesus when he arrives on earth. Was God grieving too on that day? I have to believe that with whatever else God felt on that day, God was overjoyed to demonstrate His incomprehensible love to a world filled with pain and despair. Love not only moves the world, it also moves heaven.
As we give and receive gifts this year, let us remember that the most important Christmas gifts are not found at Walmart, or Kohls, or at Amazon, or under a tree. They are found in our hearts, and in the hearts of those who love. And in our festivities and in our giving of gifts this Christmas, let’s especially remember the forgotten ones, the hurting, the lonely, and the grieving. If each of us would reach out to just one hurting person or family this Christmas, and generously share with them the greatest of all Christmas gifts, the gift of love, then our world will be a better place, and we will know the true meaning of Christmas.