Christmas is a time for cheer and joy, for thoughts of peace and well-being. It is a time for giving and for being thankful. When we share our cheer and give away our joy, it expands and grows. When we are thankful for any bit of peace and well-being that we experience in our lives, it too expands and grows. It does so in ourselves, in others. and throughout this wonderful world.
A Few Pieces of Bread
We begin our considerations with a story of long ago in which a man was speaking to a crowd of people who had come to hear his message concerning things like forgiveness and healing. This man, this Jesus of Nazareth, saw that the crowd was large and that the people were willing to sit for long periods of time to listen. He desired that they have something to eat. He asked his disciples, his closest followers. to give the people some food. All that was at hand were a few loaves of bread and a couple of fishes, which they brought to him. Jesus began to break the bread into pieces, but not before giving thanks, then proceeded to pass those pieces into the crowd along with the fish. The people ate and all were satisfied, and somehow this small amount of food produced many baskets of leftover pieces.
This does not sound like much of a Christmas story. except that it concerns the one whose birth is solemnly and joyfully celebrated by many on Christmas day and throughout the season. It is all about the love that is in the world and with us at all times, and about the underlying peace of Christmas that is within us and around us, and in the way, and all the many ways, in which we celebrate the season.
The Grinch and Mister Scrooge
We continue with a story of a well-known, but perhaps not well liked, green creature-like man, the one with the too tight shoes and the way too small heart, who, on one Christmas eve, donned a suit of red and traveled down his mountain to a nearby village and proceeded to take everything that had anything to do with the holiday to come, the celebration of which had annoyed him for many a year. With all these things in tow, the gifts, the decorations, and even the food for the feasts, the grinch made his way back up and waited for the deep disappointment of the gentle villagers below, who also annoyed him, when they discovered that the eagerly awaited holiday that was soon to arrive, would not. It was then to his own chagrin -- and amazement -- that Christmas did indeed arrive and was enthusiastically welcomed, even without all that beloved stuff, and that the power and spirit of that holy day, and the immense joy of those below, were things that could not be stolen away. The grinch also discovered that they were things that he could no longer resist. And like the quantity of bread that was given to the people in the crowd on that long ago day, the size of his heart was greatly multiplied. He returned to the villagers everything he had taken and joined them in their celebrations. He was happily welcomed, his now large heart filled with joy.
There is also the famous tale of that infamous person, the unkind, miserly and sometimes cruel man who was a sworn enemy of Christmas and all that it stood for, the celebration of which had annoyed him for many a year. Then came that one Christmas eve when he found himself in the presence of a few ghosts, beginning with the one of his former business partner, who had come to warn him to change his ways, introducing him to a trio of spirits who would help him do so. Scrooge was taken to Christmas times of his own past where he saw that he was not always so miserable during this time of year. He witnessed both hurts and joys, but there was no denying the cheerfulness present in his past. He was then accompanied by another sprit through the present-day Christmas and witnessed the cheer, joy, love, and warmth, that he was missing, and had been missing. Then he was shown by yet another spirit a frightening future Christmas where he came face to face with his own mortality, his passing an event that had no mourners. It was not made clear to him if this would indeed be his future or if it was just a possible one. Scrooge chose the latter, waking to a beautiful Christmas morning a profoundly changed man, ultimately becoming a hero of this holy day, sharing in its merriment, using his prosperity, and his deep kindness to help others. And like those pieces of bread, the joy in his heart was greatly multiplied, as too the joy in the world around him.
Santa and His Cargo
Who could possibly believe that a simple bag, big as it is said to be, could contain enough to stuff all those yearning stockings and fill all those eagerly awaiting spaces beneath the Christmas trees in the homes of all the children, young and old, of the entire planet, and all this being completed in a single night; the said sack sitting atop a sleigh mysteriously being pulled by some flying reindeer, a kind of animal that is not known to possess wings, this enchanted sled being additionally weighed down by a well-known man in a red suit, who, with much logistical help from a bunch of elvish assistants and his dear wife back at home base somewhere way up north, they say, is responsible for getting it all done. Really?
Absolutely! It is the goodness in our own hearts, our love for the little ones. and our natural joy in giving that makes it so and gives it life. The sack on Santa's sleigh is crammed with our compassion, our gratitude, and our cheer. Santa takes from his bag to give, but its volume never decreases, just as our capacity for love never decreases, and like those pieces of bread, it can only increase.
During the Christmas season, we often hear sentiments concerning peace on Earth. This planet contains many diverse peoples with vast varieties of cultures and traditions, often apparent in the many kinds of celebrations that take place during this holy time of year, the many stories and tales, sacred music and merry song, the lighting of lights, fun and laughter, reflection and prayer. We move toward peace when the comfort and well-being that we desire for others, is just as strong as that which we desire for ourselves and kin, when we know that every child should, and must, have opportunities to smile. We move toward peace when we give away our cheer and joy through kindness and compassion, when we recognize all the love present in the world.
And so, the grinch found himself breaking bread with those from whom he took, adding to their joy with his own, for as his heart grew, so too the trueness of his smile. Scrooge spent some time on Christmas day breaking bread with his nephew and his sweet wife, the nephew whose cheery nature Scrooge had often scorned but now himself possessed, bringing with him his rediscovered laughter. No bread for Santa though. But there're cookies, likely freshly baked, lovingly left for him, along with some reindeer treats, the cookies perfectly suited for breaking and dunking into the refreshing milk that also awaited him (although it has been reported that he would find some pretzels and beer awaiting him instead). And there is none more cheerful or downright merry than Santa, with his eternal smile and jolliest of laughs.
We return now to Jesus and the bread that was broken and given to the people, every piece of which contained, and continues to contain, the love that increases in the world through our desire for it to be so, along with our love driven actions, and our unending gratitude. In this we find joy, a joy worthy of the entire year, a joy within which lies the excitement and hope for peace on earth and goodwill towards all.
© 2022 Paul K Francis