Merry Christmas! It's the most wonderful time of the year for a number of reasons, not the least of which is the actual reason for the season of Christmas. Yes, I love the trappings of the secular part of the holiday as much as most everyone else. I love the carols and the lights, the tree and the packages. I enjoy seeing the little ones greet Santa Claus. In my family, there will be a reading of "A Visit from St. Nick" which everyone knows as "Twas the Night Before Christmas." There will be cinnamon toast and hot cocoa the way my dad used to make it. The candy canes and stockings will be enjoyed and more will be eaten than we should.
The fires in the fireplaces will help rekindle fond memories and help create new and happier memories. There will be parents and grandparents enjoying the baby's first Christmas and couples sharing their first Christmas together.
The gift giving will bring many smiles and the card exchanges will remind folks across the miles that we still care and love them. We will enjoy watching those wonderful Christmas cartoons and movies that make us smile and bring tears of joy. My favorite, "It's a Wonderful Life," is even being shown at the Met.
Kids will act a little better because Santa Claus is checking his list, not once but twice, and the kids know there is a payoff for not offending the man in the big red suit.
All of those things and even more are lumped into this glorious holiday, so we really have many reasons to enjoy this time of year. But there is another side of Christmas and we cannot allow naysayers to separate out the real reason we celebrate. There is only one reason and it has nothing to do with reindeer, Santa, or card exchanges. The only reason to celebrate Christmas is to celebrate the birth of the Son of God. Period. That is the reason we make such a fuss over this time of year.
Two thousand years ago in a manger in a little town in the Middle East, a baby was born to a couple. Mary was a virgin visited by an angel who informed her that she had been singled out by God to be the earthly mother of Jesus. Joseph, the husband of Mary, accepted his place as a man who had not "been with her" and yet he remained faithful to God and Mary.
Jesus grew up and in the final three years of his life got the attention of the leaders as far away as Rome. This itinerant preacher was hailed as King of the Jews, the Messiah, and other titles. He performed healings and miracles and he developed a cadre of followers. It was foretold that he would die and be raised from the dead. He was crucified, buried in a borrowed tomb, rose from the dead on that first Easter and changed the course of human history in more ways than any other person or all the other leaders combined.Period. No one else has even come close to having the impact as that baby born that day in Bethlehem.
This Christmas season brings us each an opportunity to strengthen our spiritual faith or even to begin that spiritual journey. In our area, there are many churches and while we have different ways to worship and to offer praise, we still remind ourselves that there is only one church in this entire area. We all follow the teachings of God and we all believe in a Risen Lord.
As I stated last week, without Easter, there would never be a celebration of Christmas. Every single church in this area will have services at which all are welcome to attend. No reservations required, so just look up the hours in this edition of The Sierra Star and pick a church. They will be happy you joined them.
As my family gathers this year and we celebrate this holiday, we will remember the troops that provide the protection for our religious freedom; we will be grateful to emergency service personnel who work during the holiday to provide care when and if we need it; and we will remember those in our family and circle of friends who have gone home to be with the Prince of Peace.
As you gather with you family, I hope you have a wonderful time and make happy memories with one another.
May the Peace of God fill you with abundant joy during this Christmas Season and may that peace remain with you throughout the next year.
Merry Christmas to all.