By Charles Moncrief
Maybe it’s an accident of timing, but a couple of weeks ago I read Donna Gore’s article “The Christmas Casseroles Stopped After Two Weeks.” So it’s my privilege to refer to the article, recommend it, and hopefully build on the idea expressed in it.
Every year the feasting at Christmas -- and all of the other winter celebrations -- is painful for those who have an empty place where a loved one had been present before. For the most part, it seems the pain is sharpest when this is one of the “firsts” experienced after the loss. You know: first anniversary alone, first Christmas alone, first birthday alone. Our hearts go out to all who, for whatever reason, must face this sadness at an otherwise joyful time of celebration. Many prayers have already been offered on their behalf.
Back to Donna’s article. I’m always thrilled to see the outpouring of compassion at this time of year. From Thanksgiving to Christmas many are blessed by the genuine sharing of hearts in the shelters, the hospitals, and the prisons. And what amazes me every time is that the ones sharing are blessed as much as the ones shared with.
Now here’s where I tread on thin ice -- if you’ll pardon my use of this term at wintertime. My heart tells me to put in a plug for this Christmas spirit to continue year-round. Remember, the battered women at shelters need help as much in July as they do in December. The same goes for all the others we reach out to at this time of year.
My heart says this, but my mind says such a suggestion might be received with something like “What else would you expect from a preacher?” Fair enough. But I’m out of sync with most pulpiteers when it comes to Christmas preaching. I’m as tired as you are when preachers have a field day spouting “Christmas is becoming too commercialized,” “We’ve adopted pagan customs and lost the meaning of Christmas,” etc. While many of my colleagues will criticize anything you do to celebrate Christmas, I’ll encourage you to follow your heart and enjoy Christmas the best way you know how. To encourage you to experiment with other ways is not to criticize what you’re already doing.
I do hope that the Spirit surrounding Christmas will stay around with everyone all year. My reason for this hope is that the joy, comfort, and healing found in this Spirit can ultimately accomplish nothing but good for anyone who chooses to keep this Spirit around.
Please accept my sincere wish for a joyous Christmas and the new year.
Grace and Peace,