I grew up during the Vietnam War. As a child, I had no understanding of the politics behind our involvement in a conflict half a world away; but, I was acutely aware that whatever was going on over there was often creating a great deal of conflict here at home. The evidence was everywhere, including at some of our family gatherings. My mom came from a family of highly intelligent, opinionated, and politically passionate debaters who loved to argue every aspect of most any topic, including the war. When I was little, I found their “discussions” fascinating and their anger un-nerving.
Even in the quiet serenity of our own home, getting completely away from the turmoil was difficult. Most afternoons, while Mom fixed dinner, my sister and I watched the kids’ shows which preceded the evening news. Many times, if we didn’t get the TV turned off quickly enough, we were subjected to clips of the fighting in the jungles of Vietnam or footage of anti-war protests here in the States. Why were people so angry and violent?
Not surprisingly, it was with relief that I heard Walter Cronkite declare one evening during his newscast just before the holidays that both sides would be observing a ceasefire for Christmas that year. My relief quickly turned to amazement. Even as a 8- or 9-year old, I wondered why–if they could stop shooting at each other for Christmas–they couldn’t stop the war all together. Couldn’t we pretend that every day was Christmas? It didn’t make sense.
This memory came flooding back on Sunday morning as I scanned the bulletin of the church where we’d gone to hear a good friend sing and play the bells in her church’s Christmas Cantata. As we sat waiting for the service to begin, I read their Christmas Creed:
I believe that Christmas is a spirit…not a season of the year, but a way to live. It comes whenever wise men and shepherds bow down at the same shrine; whenever charity displaces intolerance; whenever old enemies forgive one another; whenever kindliness takes the place of ill will. I believe in the Christmas hope as the way to live for all persons and nations. I believe that peace on earth and good will among all can become living realities in this generation.
Indeed. What if we did spread the true spirit of Christmas over 365 days instead of trying to cram all into a few short weeks at the end of the year? What if we all were on our best, most generous behavior all year long? What if we based our decisions not on the almighty dollar, but on the dignity and humanity of others. If you ask me, that would give real meaning to Christmas.
As for the quote itself, I have no idea who wrote it or where it was published originally (if it wasn’t written by someone at the church), and I apologize for being unable to give proper credit, but I sincerely thank the writer for putting the musing of a young child into such eloquent and thoughtful form.