‘Tis the Season
By Colonel Dennis Phillips –
I am admittedly and unabashedly in denial (something my wife and children tell me I am very good at-at least selectively, so they say). Although everything around me is virtually screaming “It’s December-Christmas is coming….ready or not,” I can’t seem to wake up to that reality. Maybe it’s the weather. This native Michigander associates Christmas with quarter-sized snowflakes gently falling upon a picture perfect winter scene, single digit temperatures (sometimes below zero) and, we normally enjoy a week between Thanksgiving Day and the first of December. Not this year. Not this place. Today, the sky is a clear and pure blue. This morning’s weather report promises temperatures in the low 70s, and, as I write, hummingbirds are flitting about right outside my office window, all of which accommodates my denial tendencies quite comfortably.
Denial or not, the blessed season (and one’s tone of voice dramatically affects the meaning of that phrase) is upon us, and I, for one, am deliriously glad, for of all the seasons of the year, I love Christmas most of all (despite the denial thing).
First of all, I love a Salvation Army Christmas, a month of kettles, nursing home visits, toy shops, “The Gift of Warmth,” a “Tree of Lights,” Christmas baskets and caroling. I love it all and frankly, in my present appointment, miss the fun and joy that accompany all the business of a corps Christmas schedule. (Let it be noted that one hour from now, I will be toting a baritone through the streets of San Pedro as I play the 3rd part of the familiar carols along with a brigade of cadets.)
When we were corps officers, it was almost an annual ritual that following dinner on Thanksgiving, we would prepare our young children for the fact that the next month was going to be verrry busy, that they would not be seeing much of Mom and Dad, and they were told what we would be doing and, more importantly, why. As they grew older, they were able to participate in many of the wonderful opportunities that are available through The Salvation Army and experience for themselves the joy that results from reaching out and helping others. Last year, in the Western Territory, over a million people’s lives were touched in some way by a Salvation Army ministry or program at Christmas time. Yes, I cannot help but love Christmas in The Salvation Army.
I love Christmas for the way the season brings people together. Families, neighbors, fellow workers all find ways to get together and get beyond the usual “Hi, how are you” and actually reach out to one another.
Most of all, I love Christmas because it is (pardon the expression) God’s trump card. The rest of the year it seems the “bad guys” are winning. You can’t pray over your lunch in school. Can’t carry your Bible. Can’t place a Scriptural plaque or poster in your work area. Oh, one can carry condoms to school. In fact, in some schools, they are distributed free of charge. But you aren’t allowed to carry the Bible. You can speak, even shout obscenities and get away with it, but try to silently pray over your sack lunch and you subject yourself to public humiliation-by the principal. (Yes, that really happened.) You can wear a tee shirt showing a suggestive slogan, but it better not bear a Scripture verse. This is what seems to be happening the rest of the year.
And then comes Christmas, and from everywhere, including the most unlikely sources, you hear “Hark the Herald Angels Sing/Glory to the Newborn King.” Walking through the busy, buzzing mall, you will hear, “O Holy Night,” “Silent Night,” and “While Shepherds Watched Their Flocks by Night.” Turn on your radio where even non-Christian stations are blurting out the news that “the wondrous gift is given.”
The whole world celebrates the birthday of Jesus Christ. Some celebrate it the wrong way. Many others have little idea of what they are celebrating.Yet, the whole world rejoices. And when those of us who do know what we are celebrating do it the right way, we find the best opportunity of the year to proclaim to one and all the true Hope, Joy, Peace and Love that this Holy Season is all about.
So, while there are those who gripe and grouse about the commercialization of Christmas (and some of the time, I am one of them), and while others grumble about the business and stress of the season, let our hearts be content that when it is all said and done, the message of “Peace on Earth, Good Will to Men” has been declared.