Somewhere beneath the ribbons and bows and 50% sales and ritual commercialization of any holiday on our global calendar, there is the faint reminder that Christmas represents something hopeful. For me and millions of others, this hope is an enduring prayer.
The holidays are an emotional time -- evoking as much joy as they do sadness. Even as a child the season inspired mixed emotions for me; there was the kiddy anticipation of longed for gifts and treats from Santa and his "helpers," juxtaposed with a child's innocent longing for a safer, more loving and peaceful world where people didn't fight, hate, and die. This longing was memorialized for me in what became one of our family's best-loved rituals - Christmas Eve candlelight services. My wish for peace was put to music in the well-known carols we sang at those late-night candle-glow services. I can't remember a Christmas Eve that Silent Night didn't bring tears to my eyes.
Though as a kid I longed to discover a Barbie doll or record album under my tree, I also wished for a world without war. My youthful global knowledge was extremely limited in those grammar-school days, but my uncle had a bomb shelter, so the fear of nuclear war with Russia, though unfathomable, was present in my mind. Yet despite the seriousness of the world's political and sociological situation, our faith in God was steadfast, and hope was cultivated. At Christmas time we kids marshaled all our efforts to hope for the best.
I'm all grown up now, and I am still dreaming of peace - not just the heavenly kind, but the version of peace that could actually take root right here on earth. Is this a possibility? I continue to hope so. But the message and lesson of Christmas may be more about the process than the solution; the giving, than the getting. When I distill down my emotions at this time of year, caring about others is the predominate theme. Along with childhood wishes for ourselves, my friends and I were taught to have an awareness of other people's suffering, and to help them where we could. The bigger-picture problems of the world seemed beyond a child's ability to control, but nevertheless, every year, canned goods and pennies were collected, and hopes for peace and harmony were engendered.
It's 2007 and counting. I celebrate both Christmas and Hanukkah, and honor those who are celebrating Eid-al-Adha and Kwanzaa. My children have taken up the gauntlet for peace in their own ways, and are donating their time and treasure to charitable causes dear to their own hearts. The light of hope is burning within them.
The process of reaching peace is torturously slow, and sadly, the world's socio-political environment continues to be rife with words and actions of hate. Yet, despite the overwhelming sorrow many people on the planet endure, love finds its way. Among the tinsel and twinkling lights of the season, and in some of the most unexpected places, the treasured gift of peace and harmony will appear.
Merry Christmas to us all.
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