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and that you're able to make this holiday season your best ever!
   

A Very Little but Very True Christmas Story
Beth Burns

Santa
Mary Ann Brussat

How Christmas Has Changed
tom walsh

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Daily Meditations

13 December 2016

   

What if Christmas, perhaps, doesn't come from a store? What if Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more?

Dr. Seuss

Christmas is not as much about opening our presents as opening our hearts.

Janice Maeditere

Peace on earth will come to stay
When we live Christmas every day.

Helen Steiner Rice

  

A Little but Very True Christmas Story
Beth Burns

"If, as Herod, we fill our lives with things, and again with things; if we consider ourselves so unimportant that we must fill every moment of our lives with action, when will we have the time to make the long, slow journey across the desert as did the Magi? Or sit and watch the stars as did the shepherds?  Or brood over the coming of a child, as did Mary? For each one of us, there is a desert to travel.  A star to discover. And a being within ourselves to bring to life".  ~ Author Unknown

Once upon a time there was a little girl who grew up in a family in which she was loved and taken care of.  She wasn't rich in the material sense, but she certainly had it better than many other children her age. She was comfortable and well taken care of in all the ways that children need to be taken care of.  It was a good life.

And she was happy.  And she LOVED Christmas!  She loved decorating the house and the tree.  She loved helping her Mom bake and cook that special meal.  She loved the Christmas secrets and the anticipation that Santa was coming.  She loved going to church and seeing the live Nativity. She loved the carols and hummed them all though the Holiday season.  She loved having people in the house and hearing the laughter that filled the air.  It was all so magical! And she had peace in her heart.  

The little girl grew up, got married and had a family.  She had a nice home and many nice things.  For several years things were fine and Christmas remained a special time.  Babies make for such sweet Christmas memories.

As time went on, and the years passed, she began to realize that something was missing.  How it happened remains a mystery, but suddenly there was no magic in the Christmas season.  December became a month of frantic emptiness.

The Holidays were filled with endless errands, finding the biggest, best, newest toys.  Nights were filled with empty parties of people she didn't really care to know.  Days were filled running from one event to the next.  Time was spent writing piles of Christmas cards (with a picture enclosed of the 'perfect family,' of course).  After all, the more cards one sends, the more friends she has, right?

She spent time cooking mountains of food and every type of cookie known to mankind.  The refrigerator overflowed with food that could never be eaten before spoiling, even if a small army was visiting.  She went to bed late at night, falling into a dead sleep -- nothing else to give.  No time for gratitude, prayers or a hug.

Because this is a true story, the truth must be told, and the truth is that there was adversity and pain through the years.  There was the marriage that no longer worked and divorce followed.  The end of a long term relationship and friendship was hurtful.  And a child who became seriously and chronically ill was devastating.  There was simply no magic.  How could there be joy in such sorrowful times?   There was no peace in the woman's heart.

Time went on, as it always does, and things eventually began to change.  Healing took place as the woman took charge of her life.  She found that many, many answers are found in silence and stillness.  And the woman began to relearn what she knew as a child.  

She learned that it really doesn't matter WHAT is in your life as much as WHO is in your life.  She learned that 'illusions' are for mirrors, but not for the real world.  She learned that to fully love others, you must love yourself, too.  

She learned that humming Christmas carols can brighten the spirits on any day.  She learned to say 'no!' to the things she didn't really want, and 'yes!' to the things she did.  She learned that simple things like taking your kids to cut down a Christmas tree can be the make the most wonderful memories of all.  She learned that Christmas isn't merely a season -- it's a feeling.

She grew so much and she glowed with anticipation of all that could be!  She filled her time with meaningful and lasting things like deep friendships, time to read a book, and sit by the fire with a child.  She learned that 'more' can be a burden and bigger is not always better.

Sometimes it is the simplest of gifts in which therichness lies.  And giving is always wonderful, but receiving with grace is also a gift to others.  She learned that God is always here and He doesn't give up on you even if you want to give up on yourself.  And she learned that peace in your heart is the most precious gift of all.

Today, the little girl, who grew into a woman, allows herself to become a little girl again.  And Christmas is sacred once more.

The End.
   

    

    
Santa
Mary Ann Brussat

Feast days and religious holidays are packed with spiritual meanings to be recognized and observed.  And we never know when a new understanding will come to us in the midst of the celebrations.

When I was twelve, I read in a magazine how I could spruce up my Christmas presents with homemade wrapping.  I used one of the article's suggestions for my father's package.  I made a chimney out of a small box, then I cut up pink sponges and pasted them like bricks on its side.  The tag said, "To My Santa Daddy."

The evening after I quite proudly put this present under the tree, my two older brothers, Colin and Philip, called me aside.  "Mary Ann," they said, "We saw your present for Dad, and we think you should change the tag."

"Why?" I demanded a little defensively, thinking they were teasing me, and I hated to be teased.  But they were serious.

"No matter what you hear in school, no matter how old you get, or how smart," they advised, "never stop believing in Santa Claus."

I have remembered those words.  I have remembered what those teenaged boys wanted their little sister to know.  Stories are true.  Don't be a cynic.  Hold on to the magic.  Years later, I came across this meditation on Santa Claus and realized that I still believe:

What has happened to me has been the very reverse of what appears to be the experience of most of my friends.  Instead of dwindling to a point, Santa Claus has grown larger and larger in my life until he fills almost the whole of it.  It happened in this way.

As a child I was faced with a phenomenon requiring explanation.  I hung up at the end of my bed an empty stocking, which in the morning became a full stocking.  I had done nothing to produce the things that filled it.  I had not worked for them, or made them or helped to make them.  I had not even been good-far from it.  And the explanation was that a certain being whom people called Santa Claus was benevolently disposed toward me. . . . What we believed was that a certain benevolent agency did give us those toys for nothing.

And, as I say, I believe it still. I have merely extended the idea.  Then I only wondered who put the toys in the stocking; now I wonder who put the stocking by the bed, and the bed in the room, and the room in the house, and the house on the planet, and the great planet in the void.  Once I only thanked Santa Claus for a few dolls and crackers, now, I thank him for stars and street faces and wine and the great sea.  Once I thought it delightful and astonishing to find a present so big that it only went halfway into the stocking. 

Now I am delighted and astonished every morning to find a present so big that it takes two stockings to hold it, and then leaves a great deal outside; it is the large and preposterous present of myself, as to the origin of which I can offer no suggestion except that Santa Claus gave it to me in a fit of peculiarly fantastic goodwill.  ~~G.K. Chesterton
   

  
   

   

No more lives torn apart
That wars would never start
And time would heal all hearts.
Everyone would have a friend
And right would always win
And love would never end.
This is my grown-up Christmas list.

David Foster and Linda Thompson Jenner

   

 

How Christmas Has Changed

I think that it goes without saying that as we grow older, Christmas changes significantly.  It's no longer what it used to be when we were kids, but for me I know that it isn't now much as it was twenty years ago for me.  There are many things about it that stay the same, but all in all, it's a different holiday for me these days than it ever has been before.

It's not just about gifts, for that's something that goes without saying.  When I was young, that's what Christmas was about--what kinds of gifts I would get.  It was a day of receiving, with a little bit of giving thrown in for good measure.  As time went on that balance shifted so that the giving became more and more prominent, eventually becoming much more important than the getting.  I still love receiving gifts, but now it's more because they act as reminders of the people who have given them to me than it is because I have more material goods to take care of.

I think that the most important shift for me has been that Christmas Day has become a day of reflection, of focusing on peace and joy and hope.  And that, of course, is the Christian message behind the day--the birth of Jesus, who was to bring peace and joy and hope to the world.  But I have to say quite honestly that the feelings I have don't follow the traditional Christian message, for I find that message to be far too exclusive if it applies only to Christians.  The message should be one to all human beings, and that's the way I see it--we all are deserving of peace, hope and joy in our lives no matter what our particular religious faith may be.  And I'm pretty sure that Jesus wouldn't disagree with me.

But those are changes for me.  There also seem to be broader changes in the world around us.  They have to do with us as members of our society becoming more divided, more suspicious of people of other faiths and cultures.  As we do become more divided, we're also becoming more likely to focus only on our own--we seem to be losing the ability to reach out and embrace people of different origins than ours.  Christmas should be a holiday of inclusion, but we seem to be pulling away from that ideal..

I have absolutely no problem with people seeing Christmas as the day they celebrate the birth of their savior (even though he wasn't born in December, of course), but I start to have a problem when the birth of that savior interferes with treating other people well.  There should be no mistaking that Jesus was a loving man, one who spoke the truth as he saw it and loved the poor, the destitute, and the broken.  And his love didn't end where his religion ended--a person didn't need to be Jewish to receive his love and compassion.  While I consider myself Christian, I never would use my Christianity as justification for showing bias or prejudice, or for excluding others from my love and compassion.

And it seems that Christmas is becoming more and more exclusive, limited more and more to our homes where we share gifts and a meal, and expanded less and less into the communities in which we live.  We're more willing to share the spirit of the season with those whom we love already, but seemingly more and more fearful of sharing that spirit with strangers.  This is a change that's a shame, for Christmas has the potential of being the time of the year during which we show the most love and compassion to others.  Part of this seems to be happening because more people feel that sharing Christmas has become "politically incorrect," but that's more a feeling that justifies not sharing than a reality.  Yes, there are more groups making us aware that they don't have a Christmas tradition, and more groups that are making us aware of their own holidays that fall in the same season, but that's by no means a justification for not sharing our own holiday with others.  If someone gets upset because you're sharing joy and hope, so what?  We used to have much thicker skins and take things much less personally, and we used to be much more resilient.  Let's not let the reactions of others change the ways that we act.

Because the fact is that Christmas is worth sharing.  As an adult, I now see Christmas as a beautiful chance to share and to give.  It's a chance to spread goodwill and not make others suspicious of you for doing so--just try to do some of the giving that you do in December, in July, and see how people react.  If Christmas is about love, then we can share our love.  If it's about hope, then the love that we share can be a sign of hope for others.  If it's about joy, then we can try to bring joy into the lives of others, even if it's a small amount, and even if it's not necessarily lasting--joy is something that comes from inside, and what we can do is to give people a taste of it so that they know it's possible.

Christmas is changing because our world--and our relationships with our world--is changing.  We do many things now and we act now often out of fears that we didn't seem to have before, fears that may be baseless, but that are nonetheless very real.  If Christmas is going to remain the celebration of love and hope that it originally was, then it's important that we make a conscious effort to keep it so in our lives, so that others may see our examples and have the courage to do so themselves.  It's too beautiful a celebration to allow it to die a slow and miserable death like so many other good things seem to be doing these days.

  

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I am not alone at all, I thought.  I was
never alone at all.  And that, of course,
is the message of Christmas.  We are
never alone.  Not when the night is darkest,
the wind coldest, the word seemingly
most indifferent.  For this is still
the time God chooses.


Taylor Caldwell

  
Facing Christmas
Grace Noll Crowell

I shall attend to my little errands of love
Early, this year,
So that the brief days before Christmas may be
Unhampered and clear
Of the fever of hurry.  The breathless rushing
   that I have known in the past
Shall not possess me.  I shall be calm in my soul
And ready at last
For Christmas:  "The Mass of the Christ."
   I shall kneel and call out his name;
I shall take time to watch the beautiful light
Of a candle's flame;
I shall have leisure--I shall go out alone
From my roof and my door;
I shall not miss the silver silence of stars
As I have before;
And, oh, perhaps--If I stand there very still,
And very long--
I shall hear what the clamor of living has
   kept from me;
The Angels' song!

   

Christmas is for children.  But it is for grown-ups too. 
Even if it is a headache, a chore, and nightmare,
it is a period of necessary defrosting of chill
and hide-bound hearts.

Lenora Mattingly Weber

  

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and a bit extra, just because. . . .
  

The Art of Keeping Christmas
Wilferd A. Peterson

How can we best keep Christmas?  How can we best defeat the little bit of Scrooge in all of us and experience the glory of the Great Day?

By sinking the shafts of our spirits deep beneath the sparkling tinsel of the surface of Christmas and renewing within us the radiance of the inner meaning of the season.

By following the Star on an inward journey to Bethlehem to stand again in awe and wonder before the Babe in a Manger.

By rediscovering the faith and simplicity of a little child, for of such is the Kingdom of Heaven.

By being still and listening to the angels sing within our hearts.

By quietly evaluating our lives according to the Master's standards as set forth in the Sermon on the Mount.

By reaffirming the supremacy of the spirit in man's conquest of himself.

By rededicating ourselves to the Master's ideals of Peace, Brotherhood, and Good Will.

By resolving to give ourselves away to others in love, joy and devotion.

By using the light of Christmas to guide us through the darkness of the coming year, refusing to go back to the dim kerosene lamps of the spirit when the brilliant electricity of Christmas is available to show us the way. 

      

Christmas Is for Love
unattributed

Christmas is for love.  It is for joy, for giving and sharing, for laughter, for reuniting with family and friends, for tinsel and brightly decorated packages.  But mostly, Christmas is for love.  I had not believed this until a small elf-like student with wide-eyed innocent eyes and soft rosy cheeks gave me a wondrous gift one Christmas.

Mark was an 11-year-old orphan who lived with his aunt, a bitter middle-aged woman greatly annoyed with the burden of caring for her dead sister's son.  She never failed to remind young Mark, if it hadn't been for her generosity, he would be a vagrant, homeless waif.  Still, with all the scolding and chilliness at home, he was a sweet and gentle child.

I had not noticed Mark particularly until he began staying after class each day (at the risk of arousing his aunt's anger, I later found) to help me straighten up the room.  We did this quietly and comfortably, not speaking much, but enjoying the solitude of that hour of the day.  When we did talk, Mark spoke mostly of his mother.  Though he was quite small when she died, he remembered a kind, gentle, loving woman, who always spent much time with him.

As Christmas drew near however, Mark failed to stay after school each day.  I looked forward to his coming, and when the days passed and he continued to scamper hurriedly from the room after class, I stopped him one afternoon and asked why he no longer helped me in the room.  I told him how I had missed him, and his large gray eyes lit up eagerly as he replied, "Did you really miss me?"

I explained how he had been my best helper.  "I was making you a surprise," he whispered confidentially.  "It's for Christmas."  With that, he became embarrassed and dashed from the room.  He didn't stay after school any more after that.

Finally came the last school day before Christmas.  Mark crept slowly into the room late that afternoon with his hands concealing something behind his back.  "I have your present," he said timidly when I looked up.  "I hope you like it."  He held out his hands, and there lying in his small palms was a tiny wooden box.

"Its beautiful, Mark.  Is there something in it?"  I asked opening the top to look inside. "

"Oh you can't see what's in it," he replied, "and you can't touch it, or taste it or feel it, but mother always said it makes you feel good all the time, warm on cold nights, and safe when you're all alone."

I gazed into the empty box.  "What is it Mark," I asked gently, "that will make me feel so good?"  "It's love," he whispered softly, "and mother always said it's best when you give it away."  And he turned and quietly left the room.

So now I keep a small box crudely made of scraps of wood on the piano in my living room and only smile as inquiring friends raise quizzical eyebrows when I explain to them that there is love in it.

Yes, Christmas is for gaiety, mirth and song, for good and wondrous gifts. But mostly, Christmas is for love.