The True Meaning of Christmas

( – promoted by Rob “EaBo Clipper” Eno)

Last night, for those of you who missed it, my friend Todd Feinburg was kind enough to invite me to participate in his special, Christmas Eve edition of Nigthside (sitting in for Dan Rea) on WBZ radio. The topics du jour were Christmas (as befit the occasion) and capitalism (as befit the host and his guest). The questions we asked were much the same as the questions that get asked every year. Has Christmas become too materialistic? Is Christmas an imposition on those who don’t celebrate it? Or is Christmas – even the spirituality of Christmas – for all who wish to celebrate it, not only for Christians? How does that spirituality relate to the ancient, pagan celebration of the winter solstice?

In short, what is the true meaning of Christmas?

Remarkably, after lo these many years, I think I have at last found an answer to those questions…found, at least, my answer. I think it has, coincidentally a lot to do with being a Republican in Massachusetts, in Obama’s America. SO forgive me if here on RedMassGroup, and on this Christmas night, I share it with you.

Though I was raised a Roman Catholic I cannot say that I am very observant anymore, nor can I claim to be particularly spiritual. But I know that I am not alone, as a mostly secular person,  in the way that the Christmas season affects me: the pretty lights and the smell of a Christmas tree, the shopping and the general good cheer (I know, there’s bad cheer out there…but it is mostly good cheer), and especially the music – they can all be so moving. Out of nowhere, at the start of the season, I hear a Christmas Carol (I happen to like “Hark the Herald Angels Sing” myself) and I get choked up.

Honestly, I’m a cynical guy. What’s this all about?

What it is all about, I think, is Hope.

Now hope is a very illusive and powerful quality. Witness that all politicians (not least successfully among them Barack Obama) employ at least the rhetoric of hope to appeal to their constituents. But what is hope exactly?

Wordsmyth defines hope as “an optimistic sense or feeling that events will turn out well.” What’s so powerful about that? We are optimistic about many things, depending on the circumstances.

But here is what G.K. Chesterton says about hope:

As long as matters are really hopeful hope is a mere flattery or platitude; it is when everything is hopeless that hope begins to be a strength at all.

And that, I think, is where Christmas, and the winter solstice, come in. Because Christmas is the time when the days have grown darkest and coldest, the time when we are most liable to succumb to our worries about our family or our health or our jobs or even the fate of our society; when we are most prone to despair. Christmas comes, in short, at the most hopeless time of year.

And it is against this backdrop of the many despairs that each of us carries within us, despairs that the days themselves are reinforcing, that suddenly, the sun begins to return! The darkness starts to get beaten back. And a voice rings out: “Behold! I bring you good tidings of great joy…unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour.”

No kidding.

The power of Christmas is the message of hope in the face of despair. It is the message that says: “don’t give up…not yet.” It is the sound of someone telling you “it’s going to be alright.” The message is not that the good times are about to get better. The message is that we were lost and yet now comes a Saviour. And so also comes the universal spirit of joy – the celebration of our reprieve.

The amazing thing is that you don’t have to be a practicing Christian – you don’t have to be a Christian at all – to hear this message. In fact, what makes Christmas enduring, (and this can be said about all the great Holidays of all the great religions) is that it proclaims an idea, a virtue, that means something to everyone.

And, because this is, after all, RedMassGroup here, let me note that though the message of hope in the face or darkness appeals to all human beings, it probably has a special appeal to Republicans in Massachusetts in the fifth year of Obama!

And with that, I wish you all a Blessed Christmas and a really outstanding 2014!

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