Finding the right words about Christmas

Johnson City Press • Dec 23, 2018 at 8:00 AM

Many things have been said by many celebrated people about the importance of the Christmas season. Whether the message be about faith, family, tradition, altruism, euphoria, or the innocent wonder of childhood, no single thought sums up this time of year.

For the most devoted among us, Christmas carries a distinct definition, celebrating the birth of Jesus and the promise of salvation brought to the world. In his message to the country on Dec 25, 1927, President Calvin Coolidge said this:

“To the American People: Christmas is not a time or a season but a state of mind. To cherish peace and good will, to be plenteous in mercy, is to have the real spirit of Christmas. If we think on these things, there will be born in us a Savior and over us will shine a star sending its gleam of hope to the world.”

Because Christmas rituals are rooted both in religious beliefs and ancient traditions, the season is a signature experience of western culture. Despite the commercialism that blurs that experience today, the celebration still encompasses so many of our ideals, hopes, connections and challenges.

Many have framed Christmas with this in mind. Take, for example, these thoughts from stalwart television newsman Eric Sevareid:

“Christmas is a necessity. There has to be at least one day of the year to remind us that we're here for something else besides ourselves.”

Or those of founding father Benjamin Franklin:

“A good conscience is a continual Christmas.”

And from early American author Washington Irving:

“Christmas is the season for kindling the fire of hospitality in the hall, the genial flame of charity in the heart. ”

Others have directly addressed the feelings Christmas inspires in us. Robert Wilson Lynd, an early 20th century author from Northern Ireland, had this to say:

“Were I a philosopher, I should write a philosophy of toys, showing that nothing else in life need to be taken seriously, and that Christmas Day in the company of children is one of the few occasions on which men become entirely alive.”

Perhaps no one captured the common thread of Christmas better than iconic comedian Bob Hope:

“My idea of Christmas, whether old-fashioned or modern, is very simple: loving others. Come to think of it, why do we have to wait for Christmas to do that?”

Why indeed.

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