The gifts we can give one another

Christmas is upon us, and the mad rush is on. Last-minute shopping is moving full steam ahead, meals are being planned, bank accounts are being checked and re-checked to make sure there are enough funds available to handle all the gift-buying, and the glistening lights on the tree match the bright shine in the eyes of youngsters eagerly awaiting Santa’s arrival.

While all of that is a part of what Christmas has become — and perhaps what it’s been for ages — it is our hope that we all slow down long enough to really enjoy this most wonderful time of the year, and to truly understand what we are supposed to glean from the holiday and, in return, give to others.

Christmas Eve is just 11 days away now. For some it will be a day of travel; for others it will be a day of preparation; and for still others it will be a day to begin the holiday celebration with family and friends.

For Christians, the celebration of Jesus’ birth moves into full swing, with the remembrance of the long journey that Mary and Joseph took recalled time and again — the crowded inn and the stable where the savior of the world would be born — in hopes of drawing people closer to the manger and to the Christ child.

Today we are divided over so many things. We have allowed our differences to separate us rather than working together to let our similarities strengthen us. We are fraught with distress about whether to wish someone a Merry Christmas or simply a happy holiday, and, in many cases, we are more concerned with the gifts we’ll receive than those we can give.

But no matter your religious beliefs, no matter the gifts you can buy or the ones you will get, these next few days will be a time when people should set aside extremists attitudes, selfish acts and unkind thoughts to share in the joy of a moment, the stillness of a night, the thought of a peace brought about by a tiny baby in a lowly manger.

It’s peace and love, hope and mercy we should all focus on this time of year, and really all the year through.

Whether we celebrate Hannukah, Kwanza, Christmas or some other form of the holiday, celebrate we should, peacefully and happily, knowing that regardless what we may or may not believe, one thing is certain — it would be nice to have a few days when everyone simply laid down their weapons, their anger and their selfishness and tried to be the people that somewhere deep inside we all know we can be.

It is our hope that as we settle into whatever celebration we have throughout the next week or so, that we spend time with family and friends, offer a helping hand to someone whose holiday might not be as special as our own and provide gifts that don’t come wrapped in shiny paper and bright red bows — gifts of time, friendship and a volunteer spirit.

And it is our prayer that each of you will find your way to that manger, where a baby boy was born, a baby who Christians believe was destined to save the world. That birth gave a new meaning to the word love and a deeper understanding of what it means to give, two things we should try to emulate as we finish out this year and begin anew in 2018.

Christmas evokes so many emotions, but the one we hope it brings to the surface most is the desire to love one another no matter our differences, and to find peace that can, in turn, be shared around the world.

Indeed that would be the greatest Christmas gift we can give to others and ourselves.