Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of December 10, 2007
It's Christ's presence – not presents – that makes Christmas
Traditions warm the heart, Jesus' birth saves the soul
My Glass is Half Full
By MARK PICKUP
My grandchildren were decorating the Christmas tree.
Between garland and tinsel, my five-year-old grandson was overcome numerous times with excitement and sighed, "Christmas is my very, very favourite time of year!"
Grandma smiled and went into the kitchen. She returned a few minutes later with a tray of hot chocolate drinks and gingerbread cookies. Our grandchildren's eyes were aglow with delight for the Christmas season.
When the tree was fully decorated, the family turned out the lights in the living room, leaving only the tree twinkling and the light from the fireplace flickering. A Nativity scene sat on the mantle. Everything was perfect.
Hot chocolate, gingerbread
Outside the first cold spell of winter frosted the windows. Joy To the World! played quietly on the stereo. The music was only interrupted by the steady slurping of hot chocolate and the munching of gingerbread.
Yes, Grandma is a shameless traditionalist. I am too. I speak to my grandchildren of when God's only begotten Son entered the world, taking on human form, in order to save mankind from their sins.
The Holy Scriptures tell us "And the Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us, and we saw his glory, the glory as of the Father's only Son, full of grace and truth" (John 1:14).
God became man. Jesus was that manifestation - fully God, yet fully man. It is an enduring mystery to a puny mind like mine. But I am glad Christ came to save the likes of me. I love the great and historic treasury of Christmas music, spanning hundreds of years, celebrating Advent.
Being the hopeless romantic that I am, that treasury gives me a connection to generations past; their own children's eyes were aglow to anticipate the Christmas season and the coming of the Lord.
I mentioned Joy to the World! This beloved carol has been part of Christmas celebrations since the 18th century. Sir Isaac Watts (1674-1748) wrote the Scripture based words of this great carol. The music was composed by George Frederic Handel (1685-1759).
It is interesting to notice that the first four notes of this Joy to the World! match the first four notes of Lift up Your Heads and Glory to God in Handel's venerable oratorio, Messiah: This masterpiece was first performed in Dublin in 1742, and conducted by Handel himself.
Since then, both Joy to The World! and Handel's Messiah have been enjoyed by millions of people each Christmas season. The refrain "And heaven and nature sing" is the same as the opening orchestral notes of Comfort Ye found in Messiah.
In 1739, Charles Wesley (1707-88) wrote the words to Hark! The Herald Angels Sing. A hundred years later Felix Mendelssohn (1809-1847) put the words to the music we know today.
It Came Upon a Midnight Clear was written in the 19th century. O Come, O Come, Emmanuel come from the 12th century. While Shepherds Watched Their Flocks dates back to the 17th century with music also attributed to Handel. What Child Is This comes from an English melody dating before 1640.
Like the Nazis before them, modern secularists and neo-pagans want to remove Christ from Christmas. Will they trash these beautiful carols? The Incarnation is to be replaced by a hypertensive fat man dressed in a red suit from the North Pole.
But wait! Even Santa Claus can be traced to a fourth century Bishop St. Nicholas of Bari, the patron saint of children.
It is so important that we keep Christ in Christmas. It's called Christmas not Santamas. Without Christ's being at the centre of Christmas there is no purpose to the season - unless one considers fluff and shameless consumption a purpose.
Without Christ and the celebration of Advent, all the hot chocolate and "ho-ho-hos" will come up short and shallow. The season will be as anti-climactic as taking down the tree on Jan. 3, with the deepest part of winter yet to come.
In the final analysis, the source of all true and complete joy for the human soul comes from knowing Christ. His joy lasts throughout the year for those who love and follow him.
The sum total of life's purpose is to know, love and serve God through his Son, Jesus Christ. God first loved us with an everlasting love and the Incarnation shows this love. He knew the journey that began in Bethlehem would inexorably lead to Calvary, yet he gave his Son that we might live with him forever through faith (John 3:16).
This is the hope I want to convey to my beautiful grandchildren so eager for the Christmas season. I want them to love God and believe in his Son, to follow his commandments, and to love their neighbours as themselves.
This is the basis for right living and rightness before our Creator. It leads to lasting joy beyond the Christmas season.
I want this for my family - and yours.
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