Monday, December 7, 2015

What Should We Really Do At Christmas?

As Christmas comes closer, we all tend to sweat the small stuff like did we get Timmy the right video game and are all the lights on the tree actually blinking?  I work in retail and that makes this season particularly tough.  In my world we don't have time to spend with our families, and we don't have time to do good things for people other than our families, because we are too busy helping all of you make sure that Timmy gets the right video game.  All in all, that's just sad.  It's like we've all forgotten what the holiday is really all about.  Forget about your tree.  It's nice, but it was just an attempt to get Pagans to become Christians in the early centuries AD.  Lights are great, and I love the way they look on my tree and my house, but is that really the point of the world's most important single day?  More people either acknowledge or celebrate Christmas around the world than any other single day aside from New Years.  Even NORAD tracks Santa Claus.  And we love Santa, because he brings us great stuff that we wouldn't normally have.  It's all great, but at this time of year I thought it would be nice to mention what it's really all about.

Christmas is the celebration of the birth of Christ and he was reportedly born in a manger in a barn in Bethlehem, Israel.  So, this is the place that I want to talk about.  We all know it's dangerous in the Middle East.  We all know that Israel is a hot spot.  But, if you want to experience the real meaning of Christmas, there is no better place to go.  There are a bunch of places that do guided tours for you to get the most spiritually out of your holiday.  The best part of spending the holiday in Israel is that you get some spiritual uplifting and don't have to worry about the hustle and bustle of work and home.  Couldn't we all do with a little spiritual healing with our families at Christmas?

While there is a lot of shopping and there are Christmas Trees in the Holy Land, the mood is a little different there.  They live in the middle of the biblical stories that we've all grown up with.  They always have the reminder of how important to culture and spirit the story of Christ is.  God gave us his only son.  That's powerful.  His son was sent here to be our Savior.  That's important.  I believe that celebrating the holiday means that we should remember why we celebrate it.  Maybe going to the land of the source is a great way to remind us of the significance of this day.

History is another reason to visit the Holy Land during the holidays.  The Church of the Nativity is one of the oldest churches in the world.  Every year at midnight at the beginning of Christmas Day there is a service held in Manger Square outside and thousands attend it.  It is a beautiful thing and should not be overshadowed by any political problems.  Religion, no matter which one, should be respected by everyone.  Christians gather here on pilgrimages every year, and they have a magical time.

There are so many things that most of us have to be thankful for in life.  There's more to life than things, however, and we should remember that.  No matter what anyone thinks of religion, it is a powerful thing, and I think that if we all can celebrate the holiday and buy the video games, we should all respect where it all came from.  Mary gave birth to a Savior that night and she and Joseph would raise him as their son.  The history as well as the spirituality is there for all to experience, and we should.

So, take a walk through time.  Get a hold of  one of the many places that take Holy Land tours during Christmas, and take a walk through the spiritual world of a lifetime.  History is alive and well in Israel, and the real meaning of Christmas shines through whatever else is going on.  Remember the real meaning of Christmas.

Even the Middle East loves Santa, but don't forget that came from Saint Nicholas who did the gift giving that started all that.  Look to history and find the roots of the Christmas that we know.  It's fascinating and it humbles us.  Maybe you aren't even Christian and that's just fine.  History is a powerful teacher, and the more you know, the more tolerance you'll have.  Ignorance is the enemy in these times.  Ignorance makes hatred.  Hatred makes violence.  Knowledge makes tolerance, peace and understanding.  Couldn't we all use a little bit of that?

Heal the spirit this year with a pilgrimage to Bethlehem and the Holy Land for Christmas.  Remind yourself what it's really all about.  Maybe, just maybe; you'll come away from the holiday with more than just the right video game.

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