Tahlequah Daily Press

December 24, 2012

Honoring the best meaning of Christmas


TAHLEQUAH — As the Christmas season approaches its climax and the end of 2012 draws near, it’s a good time to reflect on the state of our world, nation, state and community, and to think about ways we might make it better in 2013.

Even those who aren’t Christians – and who are instead adherents of another religion, or of no religion at all – can appreciate the “reason for the season.” That’s a bit of a worn and trite phrase, but it’s also apropos. Though Dec. 25 is unlikely to be the precise date on which Jesus Christ was born, it nevertheless symbolizes a cornerstone of the faith: a vigil and a quest for the coming of peace and goodwill, justice and harmony, the reaching out to others in sacrificial love, and the salvific purging of all evil from our presence.

We need look no further than last Friday’s deadly shootings in Connecticut to understand we’re far from these lofty goals. Even as the entire country mourns the incomprehensible loss of innocent victims, many out there are using this national tragedy to further their own purposes. Some politicians who have cried out against the circumstances that led to the killing of four adult diplomats – who had understood the risks of putting themselves into a war zone – now stand silent in the conversation on how to curb the rise of mass slayings on our soil. Several for-profit scams using the emotional impact of the school shooting have been reported.

Meanwhile, in other news, politicians hold steady in their 11th-hour game of brinkmanship over the federal budget, when all they need do to serve 98 percent of their constituents is firm up the tax cuts for the middle class, and go back to work on other matters come the first of the year. The meth scourge continues to rip families apart and generate crimes across the spectrum. Predatory behavior, like molestation, seems to go on unabated. Neighbors don’t trust neighbors anymore, and even when they do, they are blind to the basic needs of those around them.

Those last couple of paragraphs may sound fatalistic, and clash with the Christmas message. But in fact, that’s the point. Even at the lowest marks in the cycle of history, and even in our blackest hours, Christmas points to not so much the winter birth of a particular baby somewhere in the Judean desert, but to the hope that birth brings with it.

It’s easy to pay lip service to Christmas ideals, but far more difficult to put them into action. It’s also difficult for us to take a hard look at society’s problems, and to acknowledge that children are usually the ultimate victims. The ones who died in Connecticut, while among the most tragic, are, in a sense, the tip of the iceberg.

If you can do one thing for one person today – if you can “pay it forward,” as the currently in-vogue phrase has it – then you should do it. And because of the very nature of Christmas, if you can only do something for one person, consider making that person a child.

While many of us sit down to family feasts Dec. 25, millions of children will listen to their bellies rumble. Thousands of those hungry children are right here in Oklahoma. They’ll have no gifts awaiting them under a tree with twinkling lights. They may be victims of abuse or neglect, or they may simply be the byproduct of an economic system that grinds the poor under the wheels of the ever-upwardly mobile super-wealthy.

You still have time to pluck an angel from a tree, to find out what your less-fortunate neighbors need, to ask your pastor about needy members of your congregation. You still have time to write a check to one of our local charities that works daily to make better lives for human beings: Help-In-Crisis, CASA, Hope House, Project Osiyo, Habitat for Humanity, and others. Or you can simply give someone a bit of your time – a helping hand, a listening ear, or a hug and a kind word.

You don’t have to be a Christian to practice the Golden Rule, which is a tenet basic to humankind since time out of mind. It’s not the “season to be jolly” for everyone, but you can make it more so by doing your part.