It's Christmas! Rather than go through a list of what's open and what's closed in town (pretty much almost everything is closed, except a few convenience stores and restaurants), I thought I'd take this morning post to wish you and your loved ones a Merry Christmas in the spirit of the season.
It's easy to be wrapped up in the shopping, the planning, the decorating and, of course, the stress. But it's also important to take this day to reflect on the meaning of the day.
In Christianity, Christmas is the celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ, the savior of mankind, born at night in a humble manger -- because there was no other place in Bethlehem for the humble Mary and Joseph to stay -- and born to bring the light of hope to a dark world.
- "7. And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn. 8. And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. 9. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. 10. And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. 11. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. 12. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. 12. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, 14. Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men."
They didn't need much. There was family: Mary, Joseph and Jesus. There were new friends: magi and shepherds. And in that dark night, as reflected by the song of the angel, there was joy.
Through the centuries, Christmas has taken customs and decorative symbols from other traditions -- Roman feast of Saturnalia, European festivals of Yule and Koleda -- all largely celebrating the impending return of the light of the sun in coming months. And of course, the holiday has been largely secularized with things like garland, mistletoe and Santa Claus.
But one thread is common in the Nativity story of Jesus' birth and the pagan celebrations from which many secularized Christmas customs derive: Light and hope.
So this Christmas Day, we can take the lessons of the birth of Jesus and wish that light of hope to those who need it most: The impoverished families and homeless people beyond our doors; the men and women serving in battle as well as their families struggling in their absence; the families of police officers and firemen who have fallen in the line of duty; the brave people of all ages battling disease or grieving for those who have lost that battle; the community of Newtown, Connecticut, and the families who mourn there today; and all too many more.
If there's one thing that transcends Christmas beliefs and customs, it should be extending hand and heart to them.
And we can take the Nativity's lesson of simple joy by setting aside petty arguments and stress and cherishing what's in front of us: The smiles on the kids' faces Christmas morning in front of the tree; the thought and love put into even the smallest gifts; hugs from relatives and friends from near and far; and jokes and stories you'll be laughing and smiling about for days.
Whatever your traditions are this Christmas Day, have a merry one.
Bryan McGonigle, Editor