Matthew and Luke in the New Testament similarly chronicled the holiday of Christmas. The modern secular version sometimes overshadows this fabled Christian story. Some do celebrate without much reference at all to the Christian version with secular songs and not Christian carols. Still, "tis the season to be jolly."
We have all heard the familiar version of the Christmas story, of the travels of Mary and Joseph from Nazareth to Bethlehem with no room at the inn. The baby Jesus was born and placed in a manger at a stable amongst the farm animals that dwelled there. We also know that his birth was well celebrated by shepherds, choirs of angels, and precious gifts given by the magi or wise men, all guided by a brilliant star in the east. What a beautiful story.
Since then, down through many, many years, this greatest of all religious holidays and many Christian traditions eventually transformed into a very commercialized "ho, ho, ho" type of Christmas. The word 'gift,' though, is the forefront of both the religious and the secular holiday and, in a way, keeps them both entwined with the original gifts at the manger scene. Does one version complement the other? Both seem to create the much needed warmth of family and friends at this time of year.
The entrance of the good ole jolly elf, Santa Claus, certainly adds to the enjoyment of children and even to grownups in the spirit of giving of gifts. The overcrowding of malls and restaurants full of shoppers tends to bolster a somewhat weak economy, which is good. Decorative Christmas trees lit up with thousands of lights throughout many homes, along with many decorations that neatly coincide with nativity scenes and teams of carolers, all create this yuletide scene.
Family and loved ones travel from near and far not only to visit and share their religious beliefs, but to exchange gifts with one another. And of course the children believe in Santa and the spirit he has to offer to all. Christmas, though, tends also to be big business, as shopping itself can be spiritual as carols are heard within every store in the mall. This puts you "in the mood" as you ponder individual gift-giving and rekindles your mood. Businesses, of course, gain by this exploitation.
There are also many let-downs as poor children who don't receive their favorite toy can't help wondering why. For the homeless, it is just another day. This is not the happiness that this holiday is hyped up to be. It has to be very depressing to the poor when they question why they are not included, although there are many organizations constantly sending food and gift baskets. The Salvation Army ranks at the top of the list for these endeavors.
As we on Christmas morning gaze at all the merriment and laughter as children open gifts and play with their new toys, while we sip at our eggnog and enjoy our own gift exchange, do we casually direct our attention to the real meaning of Christmas?
In the gospel of Luke, he writes that an angel proclaims, "Behold, I bring you good tidings and great joy, for unto you is born this day in the city of David a savior which is Christ the Lord. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, 'Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will to
men.'" This is the real meaning!
Clement Moore was an educator, scholar and even a poet, accomplishing many things including donating land and funds for the General Theological Seminary in New York City. But of all his fame, he is remembered most for his writing of "The night before Christmas." Moore cleverly moved the Santa Claus character from St. Nicholas Day on December 6 to Christmas Eve, and thus a new Christmas was born.
So there are two different types of Christmases, both spiritual and loving and, of course, gift giving.
"Merry Christmas to one and all!"
Whited is a Tribune Chronicle columnist.