With each passing year, the meaning of Christmas seems to get further and further away from its original definition and its celebration has become just another event on the retailer’s calendar.
And unfortunately divisive politics is never far away.
Congress bickers over things they should have done months ago and if you live in Iowa or New Hampshire, radio and television are filled with nonstop ads for the coming elections.
There are the annual fights over whether or not a Nativity scene should be placed on public property. Should schoolchildren be able to sing Christmas songs or even have a Christmas pageant on school property? Can a member of Congress say “Merry Christmas” in his government paid for mailings?
It seems like we are incapable of declaring a Christmas truce and putting down our political cudgels for a couple of weeks.
And then there is the commercialization of this holiday which has reached new heights. No sooner do the Halloween decorations come down at the local Walmart than the Christmas decorations go up—in early November even before Thanksgiving!
The 12 Days of Christmas have been replaced by the 2 Days of Christmas Shopping. Black Friday, the in-store shopping orgy the day after Thanksgiving and Cyber Monday, the online shopping orgy the following Monday after Black Friday are more important days on the holiday calendar.
Hollywood also sees Christmas as just another business opportunity. Every year they jam the holiday season with more bad movies.
And the media dutifully reports to us about retail sales and what they mean for the economy going forward, the controversies about the public displays of religion, and reviews of those bad movies that will be filling the screens at our local Cineplex with 20 theaters and expensive overpriced snacks.
But paradoxically, that same media uses its pages and airways to do good by helping those in need—which is the real meaning of Christmas. And while they are careful to be politically correct and not offend any one person or group, the message is clear.
Peace on earth good will toward men.
Newspapers, radio stations and television news, be it network or local, assist in toy drives, collect winter coats for children who are homeless or in foster care through no fault of their own and donate their time and money to food banks so that all can share in a Christmas meal.
As I was searching for a Christmas message to write about, I couldn’t find anything that didn’t sound like a bad greeting card. I wanted to find something with meaning that folks would remember long after Christmas 2011 is in the rear view mirror.
And then it came to me and from what I consider an unlikely source.
I received my issue of Western Horseman magazine in the mail and I started thumbing through it
Western Horseman has been around since 1936 and it is the premier magazine when it comes to horses, horsemanship and ranching.
Every month they have an interview with a horsewoman, cowgirl or female ranch boss. I have always admired the women they feature.
This month they featured a woman named Mary Bell Cooksley, a Nebraska rancher who raised Shorthorn cattle and Thoroughbred horses on the very same land her family homesteaded in the early 1800s. She raised six children and she continued to run the spread after her husband’s death. She passed away at 91 this last October.
When you read the interview her grit and determination come through very powerfully, but even more her humanity. The picture of her that accompanies the article show a woman who had a life well lived.
In her interview I found a saying that her father instilled in her.
“The good you do for your fellow man is the rent you pay for the time on Earth you had”.
After she quotes her father she says in her own words, “It’s not what’s in it for me”.
I had found the perfect Christmas message.
Pretty simple when you think about it. Helping a neighbor in need as he would help you if the boot was on the other foot, offering someone a helping hand and not a handout. And remembering that, it’s not what’s “in it” for you.
As America staggers to her feet after the body blows she has taken over the last few years, we desperately need to remember the words of Mary Bell Cooksley and her Dad’s simple advice, because only by looking out for each other and pulling on the same end of the rope can we restore America’s greatness.
At this time of trial for the nation and the world, I can’t think of a better message. And I’ll bet that the one whose birth we celebrate on December 25th would heartily agree.
Merry Christmas to All and here is looking to a brighter 2012.