The spirit of Christmas begins with acts of charity

By George Brown

“Merry Christmas!”

“Happy Holidays!”

“Season’s Greetings!”

“Cold enough for ya?”

Chances are, if you had a nickel for every time you have been met with one of those greetings in the last few weeks, you could single-handedly meet the campaign needs of the Santa’s Anonymous program.

At least it gets neighbours, and businesses and customers talking.

For most of us, Christmas is a break from work; for family and friends it is a time to share presents, turkey and a friendly wassail or two.

I don’t really get into the Christmas spirit until my family, friends and I go on our annual Christmas tree hunt southwest of Rocky Mountain House. We got that done on Dec. 12 so I’ve officially been awash in the Christmas spirit for more than a week— or as much as I can be with newspaper deadlines, Christmas concerts to attend and a shopping list with no one’s name stricken off.

In my haste to bag a spruce and lash it to my hood, I scarcely noticed that it was the runt of the Rocky Mountain Forest. It’s definitely a Georgie Brown Christmas tree. I don’t think I’ll have to spend a lot of time vacuuming up needles. I’ve seen family trees in West Virginia with more branches. I’m sure it’ll look great wrapped in tinfoil.

But some of our neighbours won’t have a tree.

As our Santa’s Anonymous campaigns have reminded us, let us remember the needy, the cold, the hungry, and the oppressed; the sick and those who mourn, the lonely and the unloved at this special time of year.

At Christmastime, everyone is our neighbour, no matter their race, creed or colour. The need to look after our neighbours is far more important than cultural or religious differences. Dec. 25 marks the birth of Jesus Christ. Among other things, it is a reminder that at its core, Christmas is a story about a family — a family in dire straits.

It took a week of snow and arctic weather to get us in the mood for Christmas. If only we hadn’t left it so late to go Christmas shopping.

Most of us have the financial resources to go Christmas shopping, to splurge one last time. But there are some of our neighbours who are beginning to feel the pressure of a tightening economic noose. The spirit of Christmas begins with your acts of charity. Christmas will help you to restore faith in the goodness of mankind.

Communities provide us with a necessary sense of belonging; we share in moments of joy and sadness, we accept differences and reduce prejudices — regardless of our religion. We learn from one another — Christian or Jew, Muslim or Buddhist, Sikh or Hindu.

Religion can be divisive — and Canada is still at war afar this Christmas — but the Bible, Koran and the sacred texts of Jews, Buddhists, Sikhs and Hindus are sources of divine inspiration and a practical guide to living for billions. Christmas, Ramadan, Hanukkah, Kwanza and the coming new year offer a time to reflect and believe in the possibilities of rebirth and renewal. The birth of Jesus Christ in a simple manger in Bethlehem two millennia ago is still a powerful symbol of hope for a better future.

The measure of Christ’s influence continues to be seen in the selfless works of volunteers in our communities. Christmas is the perfect time to recognize all who have made our communities better and to say a heartfelt thank you to each of them.

At the centre of all our lives this season is the centuries-old message of caring for others, the message at the heart of Christianity and the other religions observing celebrations at this time of year. Simply, we’re celebrating a sense of belonging and pride in our community; a sense of sharing a common heritage enriched by cultural, ethnic and religious diversity.

Our community celebrations, the pageants, the church services, the volunteerism, help to recognize the valuable work undertaken by so many people in service of their communities. As the Christmas story reminds us, we must never forget the plight of the disadvantaged and we must respond to the needs of those who may be in distress. Our work and family responsibilities place such heavy demands on our time and attention that we need to remember during this global economic crisis that our responsibility to others is greater than ever.

Merry Christmas.

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