Sunday, December 24, 2017

Christmases Past And Present

            Sleigh bells ringing. Carolers. Chestnuts roasting on the open fire. Currier and Ives prints. Tintype memories of Yuletides of yore.
“What a thoughtful gift.”
“It’s the thought that counts.”
Time was when people used to hunt for just the right gift for that certain someone, whether it was a baseball glove, a puppy, a diamond bracelet, or just the right pair of slippers. Or perhaps even something they made by hand. Many stores back in the day weren’t open on Sunday, as that was a day given over to family time, reflection, or giving thanks.
Now the stores are open on Thanksgiving. And Sunday. And some even on Christmas and Easter. People increasingly buy their own gifts for others to give them, so they don’t run the risk of “having” to return them. Or they may just give cash. After all, it’s always the right color, and the right size (unless the recipient is truly greedy). Many families have given up on buying gifts for specific people altogether, instead instituting “The Dice Game” or some such to determine who gets what. Nothing says Christmas like tossing dice and stealing away gifts you know other people covet. Gambling for gift cards, baby! To multi-national corporations! Everybody now: “All is calm, all is bright…”
Countless newspaper and magazine articles talk about “the stress of the holiday season.” Many, if not most, retailers instruct their employees not to wish their customers “Merry Christmas” anymore.  Some polls have found that a majority of respondents claim they wouldn’t buy any gifts at all if they didn’t “feel like they had to.” 
In days of yore, many younger working folks traveled back home for Christmas to spend three or four days on the farm or at the family homestead, basking in the warmth of a fireplace, good conversation, and a home-cooked meal. Traditions were honored, games were played, and stories were told. Folks gave…of that most precious gift of all: their time and undivided attention…face-to-face.
Today, it seems as if we’ve gone to a “Pay-per-View” version of Christmas. There are a nearly infinite number of television channels for our entertainment, anyone can find anything to fit his or her- or zirs- viewing “needs.” We have more “conveniences” than ever before, more “timesavers,” and literally more computing power in the phone in our hands than was used to put Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin on the moon. Everyone has to have the newest i-Phone. We have robotics and artificial intelligence.
And we are nearly all saying, “I don’t have time to do this,” “that,” or “fill-in-the-blank.”
Almost none of us would panic if we skipped celebrating Christmas entirely. Almost all of us panic when we can’t find our smart-phone.
We have journeyed too far down a road that ought not have been traveled.

It is time to find our way home again.

Oh, holy night
            The stars are brightly shining
            It is the night of the dear Savior's birth

           Long lay the world in sin and error pining
           Till he appeared and the soul felt its worth
           A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices
           For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn

           Fall on your knees, oh, hear the angel voices
           Oh, night divine, oh, night, when Christ was born
           Oh, night divine, oh, night divine

           Merry Christmas!

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