The spirit of Christmas

Next weekend, a week from today, in fact, as we prepare to unwrap brightly colored gifts, share a hug or kiss under the mistletoe and relish in the magic that this most wondrous time of year always brings, it will, in many ways, be a symbol of Christmas.

You’ll spend time with family and friends, share a few laughs, even shed a few tears for those you’ve lost over the years, loved ones who won’t be able to share this special time of year with you. In some cases you might even have feelings of anger and hurt, bitterness brought on by circumstances that have occurred throughout the year, putting a damper on the spirit of the season.

Our Christmas wish, no matter where in life you find yourself, is that deep down you will find the true meaning of Christmas, allowing it to fill the emptiness, take away the hurt and bring a smile for no other reason than because the season inspires it.

It is our hope that each and every person within the reach of these words, and beyond, finds the real feeling of Christmas?

When will it come? Will you recognize it? Will you feel it in your heart? There will be many emotions shared in the coming days — love, sadness, happiness, excitement, emptiness — but none of those feelings will truly encompass the emotion that the real spirit of Christmas will bring when it truly envelopes your heart.

While Christmas is about the gift-giving, and the gift-receiving; about the families and the food; about the love and the cheer; about the smiles and the excitement that lights up a child’s eyes; about Santa Claus, reindeer and stockings filled to the brim, there’s something else about Christmas that we hope will come, quietly but forcefully, entering our lives at some point during today.

And when it does, we’ll know that it is, in fact, Christmas, far more than a holiday and far more than perhaps we’ve ever truly realized it can be.

It’ll be that feeling we get when we realize that this day truly symbolizes something great, something that resonates deep within each of us, perhaps something we can’t quite explain yet we feel as powerfully as anything we’ll ever experience.

For Christmas won’t come when we open the presents. It won’t come just because we celebrate with friends and family. It won’t magically appear just because next Sunday will be the culmination of dozens of days of shopping and wrapping and spending.

It won’t come until we stop, open our hearts and feel the love of a tiny babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, a baby that Christians believe is the hope for all the world.

In that moment, when you focus on that baby and ponder the meaning of that birth, Christmas will come and with it will come all the feelings — sharing and giving, love and caring, compassion and tolerance — that signify that there truly is hope for a world that often seems to be reeling out of control.

It is a hope that, we believe, begins and ends with that tiny baby. It is that child who would grow into a man who — though he didn’t have a home, never traveled more than 200 miles from the place he was born, lost popularity at a young age and was nailed to a cross between two thieves — would die to save us all. That child embodies love for all and peace that we long for every day.

That’s when we believe the spirit of Christmas will begin for us … and when it begins, though the day may come and go, the feelings it will bring will never, ever leave us.