For Christians the world over, this day when all is said and done comes down to a single baby in a manger. Yes, after literally months of decorations all around and breathless shopping trips, and endless requests from the young ones and all the parties, and the singing and the special events from churches and charities ... after it all, this holiday is about that baby.
Yes, the increased diversity in our society, a diversity that can, and should, make us stronger and more enlightened, has made us aware that in the many other religions that thrive within our borders, this day is of a different meaning. But for those Christian leaders who believe in appreciating all faiths, Christmas Day in a way is an opportunity to celebrate a Christian holiday focused on the Christ child while also celebrating the members of other religious groups who will but observe this holiday removed from its customs.
If one of the guiding beliefs of Christmas is “peace on Earth, good will toward men,” then here is a day to hope for that good will toward all people, all faiths, all countries, all continents. So let’s hope that many of us today will offer that good will to those fellow travelers on this planet whose language we may not speak, whose customs we may not understand, whose religious beliefs we do not follow. That “offering,” if you will, is part of the true Christmas spirit.
But we’ve got a little good will work to do here at home. Around our tables today, we’ll engage in family discussions that will touch on many subjects, certainly on the current doings in Washington, for one example. Might we devote some good will toward, for example, the solid working people who keep America strong with their own day-to-day labors, making goods or serving humankind with the good deeds of transportation or repair services, or helping an elderly neighbor or relative with chores or just being, by nature, kind to those who need some kindness?
And might we send a little good will toward those people who won’t be among the rich and powerful who seem to be benefiting the most these days from a Congress and a President who seem to celebrate selfishness with their tax “reforms” and put their boots on the necks of citizens in desperate search of affordable health care? Sorry, but while Christmas has its courageous souls like Bob Cratchit and Tiny Tim, it also has Ebeneezer, and it took him too long to come around.
But through it all, good people, through it all there is hope. Yes, no matter what the rascals in Washington may be up to – and shenanigans to be sure aren’t confined to one political party – there is that hope, the hope that gave us our beginnings on the field at Yorktown to the hope that carried us through the World Wars, to the hope that survived, yes, even through the despair of Vietnam and that horrific September day in 2001.
We must – now you might want to grab a chair – invest some of that good will in President Donald J. Trump, whose bombast and shallow view of the world and lack of understanding of his fellow Americans is distressing. But it must not be disheartening, and we must hope that he deals with restraint toward North Korea, for example, and that he listens to the wisest of people around him.
We would like to hope as well, what we always hope. That on this holiday, we will direct some of that good will and good fortune around the world to the less fortunate – to the poor and the sick and the troubled among us, especially those young ones who need the rest of us to support them and guide them. Compassion. Peace. Good will. Hope. Wisdom. Grace. Gather them, one or all, if only in spirit from under the tree or the menorah and “give” them generously. This day especially, but in all your days to follow.