The Reason for the Season

Monday, December 10, 2001
Southern California Suburbia

Season's Greetings,

For me, Christmas is still about Christ.

It didn't start off that way, as I was born to areligious parents.  My earliest Christmases were all about the secular culture of the day:  the decorated tree, brightly colored lights, gaily wrapped gifts under the tree, candy canes, holiday cards, and money in white envelopes from my grandparents.

One of my fondest holiday memories takes me back to my tiny village on the island of Hawai`i.  The school of my childhood, Pahoa Elementary School, held its yearly Christmas pageant in the school gymnasium in the evening before winter vacation officially started, when spirits were at all-time highs. Ours was a country school with only about 25 kids per grade, so every kid in the village was both enthusiastic pageant participant and appreciative audience member. 

With gusto and pride, as snowflakes, reindeer, drummer boys and elves, we sang, danced and pranced our way across the creaky stage in the oldest gym west of the Rockies.  Our performances were rewarded by wild applause, cheers and shouts of  "Hana hou!"  (Encore! Bravo! in Hawaiian) from our schoolmates, teachers, parents, relatives, and community.

It was at this pageant that I learned about the real Christmas Story, about Jesus being born in a manger; the Star of  Bethlehem; the hovering angels, joyously proclaiming his birth to startled shepherds in the field; and the visit of the three wise men, singing:

 "We Three Kings of Orient are, Bearing gifts we traverse afar, Field and fountain, moor and mountain, Following yonder Star. ..." 

Always, the crèche scene was hurriedly set up immediately after the fifth graders wrapped up their song and dance number, just before Santa arrived with treats of candy, raisins and nuts, bagged the night before by the PTA. 

Always, the sixth graders played the roles in the Nativity scene: the Catholic kids were always Mary and Joseph, baby Jesus was always a swaddled boy doll borrowed from the kindergarten; and the rest of the sixth graders always crowded the stage as either haloed angels in white sheet dresses or shepherds in burlap bag tunics with hooked staffs. 

Always, I felt a stirring inside. I was deeply impressed with the sacredness, solemnity and significance of the scene, although back then those words were not yet in my vocabulary. 

I didn't think of The Christmas Story then as a fairy tale or a myth. I bought the whole story, and still do, although I would hardly be described as a fundamentalist. The existence of Scripture -- as demonstrated by the Dead Sea scrolls discovered in 1945 -- is another assurance of the story's validity.

Since, I have learned that religious scholars surmise that Jesus' birthday is belatedly celebrated, that his real birthday was in the fall when the shepherds would be out tending their sheep, and not in the dead of winter. Although I like the thought of sharing my birthday with Jesus' actual birthdate, September 29, I am not a purist about this historical inaccuracy. I have no problem with waiting until December to celebrate it a few months late with everyone else.

While I love the festivities, traditions, customs and emphasis of family togetherness, it is the spirituality of Christmas that makes it deeply meaningful and real for me. And yes, my heart still feels a stirring whenever I see a Nativity scene, one that is getting rarer and rarer these days.  

For all my spiritual love for the day, I am the first to admit that I too can get caught up in its distracting secular hubbub. Today, I took some time to spiritually center myself and thoughtfully review this site:

>>  The Real Meaning of Christmas

Anticipating the impossible busy-ness of the next few weeks, I've promised myself to return to this entry, where I can pause and fully remember the reason for the season:

Happy Birthday, Jesus

Happy birthday, Jesus, it's that time of year
All the lights on the trees say Christmas time is near
Another year's behind us, you helped us make it through
So, happy birthday, Jesus, this song is just for you

We all get so hung up on material things 
at times it seems like we forget
What Christmas really means
It should be thanks we're givin', 
that's why I wrote this tune
Happy birthday, Jesus, 
this song is just for you

There's a gift for everyone but you underneath the tree
No, it's not much, but I hope you like this song to you from me

Happy birthday Jesus, 
that's why I wrote this tune
So, happy birthday, Jesus,
 my song is just for you

~ J.P. Pennington & Teddy Gentry
Lyrics and chords

Audio of song by Alabama, thanks to Amanda's Place
(slow-loading for non-DSL but worth the wait)


"Life is a Gift."

Author Unknown

P.S.  If you would like to share a portion of yourself with words, in response to this journal entry, you may do it here.  

 "The only gift is a portion of thyself..."
Ralph Waldo Emerson


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This web journal was created on a September Morn, 
September 29, 2001
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