The Christmas Compromise – Guest Edition

Christmas Reflections

What is Christmas to you? ~ by DES

December 26, 2017

Feast Day of Saint Stephen (The First Marter) 

35 “In all this I have given you an example that by such work we must support the weak, remembering the words of the Lord Jesus, for he himself said, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.”’ ~ Acts 20:35 (NRSVACE) 

Christmas Reflection – As a Child

As a child, I remember Christmas being that exciting time of year where presents were extremely important and highly anticipated. Presents were the highlight of the night. They were the end all be all. The purpose of life. Presents were life…

Though making a list of all the materialistic things I wanted was also pretty fun, I was always more pleased to find gifts from loved ones that played to my innermost desires. Those things consisted of Bratz dolls, Build-A-Bear clothes, Sims expansion packs, and other various toys I was convinced would bring me ultimate joy. Sure, ripping up the wrapping paper and spending a couple minutes destroying the boxes these toys were presented it did give me quite some joy… as did playing with them for weeks and months to come. But as I grew up and the toys I wanted increasingly became more expensive (i.e. laptops, makeup, jewelry, and iTunes cards) I also felt a shift in what brought me the most joy.

Christmas Reflection – As an Adult

I think about the sacrifices made, the planning and prepping that takes place, and just how expensive Christmas can be for families. It’s hard not to feel a little overwhelmed when thinking about all that goes into creating the “perfect” Christmas. There’s food to be cooked, gifts to be wrapped, and decorations to be hung. Yet the highlight is no longer the wrapped boxes under the tree. The highlight isn’t the cake or the brisket. It’s not even the booze.

The highlight of Christmas is family. This includes friends and all extended family. People who I can share laughs with, people to make memories with, people who encourage me to be me.

The spirit of Christmas lives in our ability to see those around us with love and kindness in our hearts. Giving freely without expectation feeds the soul. Sharing space and time with others in harmony strengthens bonds. This is what Christmas is to me now.

Interestingly enough, however, Christmas hasn’t always been about gifts and trees and food. Originally the Church didn’t celebrate the birth of Jesus, and in fact, the first Americans didn’t either. It was decided that Christmas would be on the 25th of December in order to fall in line and absorb pagan holidays. The Church believed this would make the holiday more popular as Christianity spread. They were right, but the way it was celebrated in the early days was extraordinarily different from how it’s celebrated now.

Christmas was a time for the wealthy to repay their “debts” to society by entertaining those of lesser means. The celebrations were more like today’s Mardi Gras: drinks, parties, and mayhem. The first Americans were more strict in their beliefs and thus decided against establishing Christmas as a holiday until June 26, 1870. By this time we had completely reinvented Christmas. Instead of the rowdy celebration common in Europe, a new format dedicated to peace and tranquility, finding perfect presents for children, and sharing foods among friends became the norm.

This tradition has come a long way and been shaped into what it is today with the help of consumerism, Capitalism, Christianity, paganism, and the basic human need for companionship.

The Christmas Truce

So even if it is a jumble of various practices and may not always be religious in nature (hello Santa Claus) it does serve as a reminder of the importance of kindness. One such touching example can be witnessed in a little story about the Christmas Truce.

December 26, 1914

Dear Mother,

I am writing from the trenches. It is 11 o’clock in the morning. Beside me is a coke fire, opposite me a ‘dug-out’ (wet) with straw in it. The ground is sloppy in the actual trench but frozen elsewhere. In my mouth is a pipe presented by the Princess Mary. In the pipe is tobacco. Of course, you say.

But wait. In the pipe is German tobacco. Haha, you say, from a prisoner or found in a captured trench.

Oh dear, no!

From a German soldier. Yes, a live German soldier from his own trench. Yesterday the British & Germans met & shook hands in the Ground between the trenches, & exchanged souvenirs, & shook hands. Yes, all day Xmas day, & as I write. Marvellous, isn’t it? Yes.

This is only for about a mile or two on either side of us (so far as we know). It happened thuswise.

On Xmas eve both armies sang carols and cheered & there was very little firing. The Germans (in some places 80 yds away) called to our men to come and fetch a cigar & our men told them to come to us. This went on for some time, neither fully trusting the other, until, after much promising to ‘play the game’ a bold Tommy crept out & stood between the trenches, & immediately a Saxon came to meet him. They shook hands & laughed & then 16 Germans came out.

Thus the ice was broken. Our men are speaking to them now.

They are landsturmers or landwehr, I think, & Saxons & Bavarians (no Prussians). Many are gentle looking men with goatee beards & spectacles, and some are very big and arrogant looking. I have some cigarettes which I shall keep, & a cigar I have smoked.

We had a burial service in the afternoon, over the dead Germans who perished in the ‘last attack that was repulsed’ against us. The Germans put ‘For Fatherland & Freedom’ on the cross.

They obviously think their cause is a just one.

If you get a Daily Mail of Dec 23 & turn to the letter page you will see an article entitled ‘Snapshots from the Front’ & in the second snapshot an account is given of what we, with others, have done, and the identical apparatus is mentioned.

When you find a sentence or word ‘blacked out’ & not initialed by me, it is the work of the sensor.

Many of the Germans here are, or were, waiters. [i.e. in England before the war.] Thank Efford for his chocolate. Auntie Belle for the cigarettes. I have had an awful time with swollen feet and my toes are frostbitten now.

But it is all in a day’s work, as is working all night at digging or etc & sleeping in wet and mud. Where we are billetted (8 of us in a cottage in a town which is shelled now and again) we have a good time. There is a family of Belgians here whose house has been destroyed, and the old mother, about 56 yrs old, is very jolly and resourceful, as well as comical. [Any further pages are missing.]

Christmas is more than just celebrating the birth of Jesus. Christmas is more than creating family traditions. Christmas is more than cooking, buying and gifting. Christmas is more than any of those things combined. Christmas is a time for us to put down the hatchet, move past that grudge, wave that white flag and share the love with all, including our “enemies”.

Merry Christmas!

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Listening Faithfully Blog written by Brian K. Stark © 2009-2017

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Brian Keith

Brother Brian currently serves within the Archdiocese of Los Angeles Catholic School System. He is in his sixteenth year of teaching and is serving as the Director of Technology in his present school.

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