Tuesday, December 09, 2008

The Spirit of The Holiday

I woke up feeling much better than I did going to bed last night. Yesterday I did too much and paid for it. My living room is filled with box after box of Christmas decorations, waiting to be placed in just the right spot. The mind is willing but the body isn't. I will poke along at a snails pace, opening one box at a time and lovingly touch each decoration, remembering how it looked in that certain spot in years past. My decorations are mostly of the natural variety,with the exception of the tomte. I love the Williamsburg look, greenery and fruit. For it seems to me that it is the beauty of creation that is the true celebration of this man of peace that came to earth to change our lives. I suspect Jesus would shake his head in wonder at what Santa has to do with his birthday, which isn't even his real birthday by all calculations. A babe born in a manger might just wonder what gold and glitz and themed decorated trees fits into the celebration of his birth. The stores sell tiny villages of times past for us to decorate with, as if these small copies of the olden days tell us a truer story of what Christmas is, but how about we go back further. Build the town of Bethlehem, a manger, shepherds, angles, cattle, sheep and a young family with a baby that will change the world. No matter what your religious beliefs are, no one can deny that this tiny baby has changed the world. The words he spoke in manhood, have resonated throughout the ages. Yes, they have been misinterpreted, mis-used, and shoved down peoples throats at times, but they have also transformed lives and been the foundation of so many great things. From the words of this man, faith has grown and peace has been found and for those who believe, salvation granted to those that asked for it.
Today, this celebration of his birth has been buried under piles of red and green. Put on the back burner while we pursue the best gift, not for him but for friends and family. He has only asked two things, to love God and to love one another. Yet, we forget to love one another so easily, even when celebrating His birth. We push our way through the isles of the crowded stores, we complain about the money we are spending on gifts, we fuss about all the work associated with this holiday. Christmas is a celebration not of Santa Claus, but of the day when we celebrate the unknown date of a birth. The birth of a man who taught about love and peace and living a life that is for others. Yet, on this very season we celebrate Him, we pursue so many aspects of life he taught was not important.
Over and over we say or hear, " I just don't know what to get ____" All of us want kindness and love and that is something we all have in our power to give.
What an amazing gift it would be if we would commit our lives to peace and love, to live for others, to give gifts of our time, our service. To wrap in a package, not a toy or electronic gadget for our children, but time, kind words, patience, and an example of the kind of life Jesus taught about. To our parents wrap up something useful like time and service and tenderness. Use our eyes to see what needs they might have. Maybe even to put away their Christmas decorations or instead of a gift card to their favorite restaurant, maybe a home cooked meal filled with loving conversation. We so often fuss about how materialistic the younger generation has become, yet we are their teachers ! This holiday we might do well to remember one thing, we tend to become like that which we love.....what is it we love ? And at Christmas time, how do we show what we love ?

A little history for you...
The First Manger Scene
In 1224, Saint Francis had the idea of creating a “living” recreation of the birth of Jesus, as a way to bring the Christmas spirit to the local villagers. It is believed that local shepherds, guarding their flocks outside the small Italian town of Greccio, inspired him. Saint Francis had real people dressed in biblical robes, and real animals positioned outside a cave on the outskirts of Greccio. In the manager was a life sized wax figure of the infant Jesus.
On Christmas Eve, families traveled far and wide to witness the spectacle. Saint Francis urged the people to rejoice in the season of Christ’s birth and put hatred from their hearts. Over time the presepio, as it was called in Italy, grew in popularity. Other towns began featuring them and soon people had individual nativity scenes in their own homes. Wealthy families hired famous sculptors to make their nativity scenes. One of the most famous nativity scenes in Italy is displayed at in the Basilica of Saint Cosmos & Damian in Rome. Originally built in Naples during the 17th Century, it measures an impressive 45 by 20 feet and features hundreds of wooden figurines.
The picture above is of what is on display now at the Kimball Art Museum in Ft Worth. It is an extraordinary loan from Naples, Italy: an amazing 18th-century Neapolitan Nativity scene.


Dana and Daisy said...

Hi Patty, I hope you get to go to Kimball. It is such a treasure for your community.

the first part of your post is similar to what I was hoping to say the last two days.

In these times of economic problems, I think many people will turn to the real simple giving, of themselves, not of their wallets. We sure could use more of that kind of generosity!

Judi in Pa said...

Well said, Patty. And a comment about the wedding...I personally think you should go for the Gunne Sax dress. You would not have looked on Ebay if you weren't thinking that option. Go with your gut. You did 30 years ago and look how well that worked out.
Judi, aka your stocking partner

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