Warmest wishes and Merry Christmas

Christmastime — ‘the most wonderful time of year’ has again swept us up in all its glittery excitement. People seem generally more cheerful as plans take shape for all kinds of activities and get-togethers.

And of course there’s the shopping – which sometimes seems endless and it can be very easy to get all wrapped up and focused on that aspect of the season.

In spite of the commercial craziness, many of us swear the next Yuletide will be different. People chat about simplifying things, slowing down, and of finding time to reflect on the joys and blessings of life – family, friends, good health and the country we call home.

But for many, Christmas represents stress and worry. It can be a painful time for families, when people who haven’t seen each other in a long time for whatever reason are pretty much forced to be together. Christmas is also the one time of year that seems to magnify the inequalities of society. This year it has seemed that way all the more with the state of Alberta’s economy and massive job losses across the province that we have seen in the last several months.

The marginalized and those struggling to make ends meet appear more alone and worse off. It’s easy to feel left behind in the rush of the holidays.

And our local agencies have been scrambling to meet the increased demand of those seeking assistance, but it is always amazing, no matter everyone’s circumstances, that there are bright glimmers of hope and people continue to be extremely generous. It is truly heartwarming to see this time of year and inspiring how the local community always pulls together when times get tough. Agencies and community members really make it their mandate to make sure that no one goes without.

It’s no surprise that those who have their attention focused on others are the people who have insight into the meaning and joys of Christmas. And speaking of the meanings of Christmas, the birth of Jesus Christ continues to inspire everything from lively theological discourse to vibrant personal faith and the desire to serve.

Even Charlie Brown is revitalized by the story in the classic A Charlie Brown Christmas. The special first aired in 1965 and has remained a holiday staple ever since. Charlie agrees to direct a Christmas play by the local kids, but they’re more interested in goofing around. He at first sinks into a funk about the whole thing, and wonders what Christmas really means.

Linus walks to centre stage to quote the second chapter of the Gospel of Luke, verses eight through 14 which detail the birth of Christ. Everyone is struck by a poignant and powerful sense of wonder at the words. There is peace amongst the group and all is well.

This year, A Charlie Brown Christmas celebrated 50 years and it is still being enjoyed around the world by both young and old.

Meanwhile, as author Philip Yancey points out in his book The Jesus I Never Knew, the humble event, “That divided history, and even our calendars, into two parts had more animals than human witnesses. For an instant, the sky grew luminous with angels. Yet, who saw that spectacle? Illiterate hirelings who watched the flocks or other ‘nobodies’ who failed to leave their names. Shepherds had a randy reputation and other Jews lumped them together with the ‘godless’.

“Fittingly, it was they who God selected to help celebrate the birth of one who would be known as the friend of sinners.”

May the heart and soul of Christmas rest with all of us this season and always. Have a truly blessed and Merry Christmas.

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