Tonight, our family lit the remaining candles in our Advent wreath as we read the story of the birth of Christ, as recorded in the Bible. It is a beautiful story - a story of love, God's love, for all of humanity. The message of Christmas is really quite simple, it's all about a gift -- the birth of Christ.
Unfortunately, the beauty of the Christmas story and the music, song, festivities, accompanied by commercialism, politics, Santa, and even political correctness, can easily distract us from the simplicity of it all: the birth of the Savior, not in a palace but in a manger. (I'm not saying that any of these things are necessarily bad, but any of them can easily become a distraction from the true significance of this day - a day that is celebrated by so many.)
For me, as I quietly reflect on the meaning of Christmas tonight, I am grateful for the opportunity to personally celebrate.
There were many years in my life when beyond the commercial representation of Christmas, (trees, Santa, and gifts), I had no idea of what it was really about -- why did people set up trees? Why did they give gifts on this particular day? Why did St. Nicholas bring gifts? You see, at the time, I did not know whose birthday it really was. It was a party to which I had been invited, but I did not personally know the guest of honor.
Fortunately, that changed and I came to understand the meaning of the party and who was being honored.
Tonight in church, the lights were turned off and the congregation lit candles and sang Silent Night, Holy Night. As we did this, I thought about the birthday we will celebrate tomorrow. It's not an ordinary birthday. (after all, it's the only one we still celebrate more than two thousand years later.) It is truly an event like no other. The pages of history tell us that it was an extraordinary event - one that both nations and kings have recognized as a special birth ever since. For more than two thousand years, this birth has been remembered, not only in the pages of history, but through the beautiful music, song, traditions, and celebrations that have become the mainstay of what we call Christmas.
It is my hope that tomorrow, with the celebration of Christmas upon us, that you will not be distracted from the reason for the celebration.
I know whose birthday it is and I plan to celebrate.
Wishing you Love, Joy, and Peace.